Monday, March 31, 2014

Legion Redux

I played another game against that same Legion player with the same Thagrosh list. I had swapped Thor and some Blasters into my previous list:

-Black Ivan
Koldun Lord
Mechanics (min) with Officer
Nyss Hunters
Thor Steinhammer

I didn't take any photos and I'm not going to try to describe the whole game, but I will say that Thor and the Blasters didn't actually do anything. Well, other than tie up a Scythean for a couple of rounds, which I suppose is more than a single heavy normally manages. At one point Thor got four models under his spray template and missed every single one... The Nyss actually performed pretty well this time, killing a bunch of legionnaires and knocking the Scythean down to a single box left. The Decimator was killed before he could do anything, the Spriggan took out the Angelius (which is harder than it sounds as it has defense 14), Black Ivan took out the Carnivean or the Ravagore, and with the extra shot from Broadside it finished off the Scythean.Had I remembered to feat when I planned to (I moved Harkevich then forgot to feat!) the Spriggan would most likely have survived at least one more turn thanks to the armour buff, and Black Ivan probably would have killed the Scythean (who had a single damage box left) a turn earlier with the free shot before charging over - meaning I think Thor and one of the Blasters would have survived - and might even have been able to finish off the Warbeast he charged with the extra focus point thanks to the free charge. In other words, if I had remembered to feat when I meant to, I might even have had a chance of winning the game! Not much of a chance, but still. As it was it was an interesting game right till the end, I managed to take out three of his heavy Warbeasts, he spawned five(!) little critters - those things punch above their weight! - and Black Ivan had two turns of wailing on Thagrosh. Unfortunately on the last turn Ivan had only a single damage box left; luckily it was a cortex box so I could allocate him focus, but unfortunately my single remaining mechanic failed a terror test and wasn't able to repair his claw, so I had to spend focus to boost attack rolls just to have a chance of hitting Thagrosh.

So yeah, it was great fun, and I did better than last time. I'm not convinced about Thor's group; while I think blasters sound great while run by a Warcaster, I'm not sure it's worth it to Jack-marshall them into my list, not when I could buy a Juggernaut or Kodiac or a Man-O-War unit instead. Actually, I really want to try Man-O-War Bombardiers; the templates sound good against infantry and useable against Jacks/Beasts. I think I'll give them another go for now.

The Decimator kept dying before he could do anything, so maybe it's not fair to judge him on that, but I'm really starting to think he just doesn't work as well as he sound like he should. On paper he sounds great: two power 15 ranged attacks, a power 18 Sustained Attack melee weapon? Sounds like a beast, right? But the problem is RAT 4 and RNG 10: I have to boost attack rolls to hit, then I can't boost damage. Or I can use fortune, but then I'm still spending four focus on two power 15 hits - it's just not focus-efficient. And by the time he's close enough to shoot something, he's usually going to get charged next turn. So... I don't know, I think the extra range of a Destroyer and the fact that they shoot AOEs makes a big difference, especially with Harkevich, and they just use less focus.

I'm wondering if I need to use the Nyss to support my Jacks in some way rather than running them up alone; either by screening them or advancing behind them and charging up when needed. I just don't know the best way to use them I guess. If I wanted to screen my Jacks I should probably use cheaper and tougher infantry, and if I'm hiding behind my Jacks then the expensive Jacks are taking the brunt of any charges. Still, they did well today, in fact I'm considering trading the Blasters for some more weapon-masters; Doom Reavers perhaps, even though I don't like the fluff or the models? Hell, I'm halfway tempted to just take a couple of Man-O-War Kovniks, I love those guys.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

So many ideas, so little time... and speed... and skill...

As I've mentioned before, the Spriggan is my favourite Warjack model. I like both the old and new versions; the new one looks more "realistic" and imposing, the old one looks more... characterful I guess. Actually, the old model reminds me of old video game characters like Sonic. I'm planning to name one after a really old game character, but that will have to wait until after it's painted.

Anyway, I was just thinking of a Cygnar Cavalry model I'm currently converting, and how I wanted the lance to look, and it reminded me of the Spriggan's lance. And that got me thinking, a lance is a mounted weapon, so really the Spriggan should be mounted. And then I remembered this guy:

Goddamn it! Now I can't get the idea of a Spriggan riding a dinosaur out of my head! I don't have the time or money for this right now! Ah well, it's now officially in my list of conversions that I would like to get around to doing. I might not actually use the GW model; depends on the size and whether or not I can find something more Tyrannosaur-like.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Recently I watched a battle report between Khador and Cryx, where I saw a Reaper in action. Now for some reason Cryx heavy Warjacks are speed 6. OK, Khador heavies are slow, so they have speed 4. Cygnar, on the other hand, has some of the most advanced technology around (according to the fluff, which later goes on to say that Ios has some of the most advanced technology around, and then later that the Cult of Cyriss has some of the most advanced technology around...) and their heavies are speed 5 tops. So why are Cryx heavies speed 6? They have better MAT, RAT and much better DEF than my heavies too. What's that? I have better armour? Yeah, until Cryx use one of their many debufs, which I can't do anything about. Bloody Cryx.

So in the battle report the Reaper hit a Khador heavy with a ranged attack that let it pull the heavy towards it, get a free melee attack, and then buy more melee attacks. It seems the Reaper has an 8 inch range on it's harpoon, so not only can it make ranged attacks and melee attacks in the same activation, it has a 14 inch non-linear melee threat range. And that's without any support or even spending any focus. That's a 7-point Jack that also has Reach and Sustained Attack. To put this into perspective, Kador Warjacks typically have a 7.5 inch unsupported melee threat range, and that costs focus unless you're using a Berserker. The cheapest Khador Jack that has Reach - which gives it a 9" melee range - costs 10 points.

Now towing isn't the same as charging and has some disadvantages; mainly that it's far from guaranteed to work even if you have a clear lane as you need to roll high enough on your damage roll, and if you don't you can't do anything else that activation. But it has some huge advantages as well. Apart from the increased threat range - which is HUGE; better threat range seems to be one of the biggest advantages you can have in this game - it allows you to pull a model away from the rest of the army and into range of yours. If you charge a model normally, you're risking your model as it will very probably end up in range of the rest of his army, and if you can't finish your target you really are in trouble. But if you drag his model towards you you're less likely to be in charge range of one of his heavy hitters, and if you don't manage to finish it off the rest of your army can help - in the battle report another unit moved in, scrapped the harpooned heavy and built a new Cryx heavy Warjack from the wreck. Bloody Cryx.

Yes, there's ways to stop yourself from being dragged, but realistically they are pretty much the same as the ways you stop yourself from being charged (I'll talk about that lower down), so that's not much of a disadvantage. And yes, the situation is more complicated than that because of how the rest of the army and support from the Warcaster comes into play, but overall I think it's a very powerful ability that gives you a huge advantage as your opponent has to be really careful to avoid having his heavy hitter destroyed from far outside his threat range (and potentially from an unexpected vector; having a non-linear threat range makes it much easier to find an attack vector).

So yeah, my first impression was "this is broken". Thinking about it now I can see that there's ways to deal with the threat, and there's plenty of other things in the game that are at least as nasty, but it's still very powerful and still something that puts my Jacks at a serious disadvantage, even with a Warcaster who's primary advantage is giving my Jacks a bit more mobility. So I when I got to my gaming club a couple of days after watching the video and my opponent explained to me that his Prime Axiom had two auto-wounding harpoons with an eleven inch range - thirteen with a spell - meaning he could wreck my Warjacks from 18 inches away, well, that was one of those times when the game didn't feel very balanced.

I was feeling pretty tired that day so I didn't bother taking photos, but I'll give a general outline of the games I played. My Nyss Hunters finally arrived, so I swapped them in for the Juggernaut and Man-O-War kovnik from my previous list to get something like this:
- Black Ivan
- Spriggan
- Decimator
- Berseker
- Sylyss Wishnalyrr
Koldun Lord
Mechanics (max) with Officer UA
Nyss Hunters

That's a 49 point list, meaning I could have chosen the Juggernaut over the Berserker, but I figured I needed the Berserker's independence and focus efficiency more than the Juggernaut's power, especially with the Decimator subbed in for the Destroyer. It was hard to leave the Kovnik in the box though.

He was running Iron Mother, the Prime Axiom, a Cypher, a couple of light vectors, some spray infantry, Reciprocators, mechanics, and some servitors of various descriptions.

He explained before we began that Warjacks can't be dragged if they are involved in a weapon lock, meaning I could move up and lock one Jack with another and they would be fine. Since I only had one Warjack with an open fist, I decided to try to work around the Colossal instead. It didn't work; that thing just takes up too much of the table with it's "get this close and you die" range. I was trying to flank with the Nyss to take advantage of their speed, but it turns out that one of his light Vectors has a 3 inch AOE that auto-wounds, and the Cypher had two 4 inch AOEs (it also has two P&S 18 weapons with sustained attack... jeez...), and he had enough infantry around his Warcaster to slow them down long enough for the AOEs to pretty much wipe them all out. A few turns in I could see it was hopeless and I conceded.

We played a second game, this time I subbed the Juggernaut back in for the Berserker and he swapped a few units, namely the Reciprocators for Eradicators.

This time I tried the weapon-lock trick, and soon figured out a shortcoming. You see, the Jack being locked can only try to shake the lock in it's combat action, and the Jack holding the lock can only let go in its activation. This means if you activate the Jack being locked first you can't move it, so the second Jack won't be able to advance if it wants to apply the lock again. If you activate the Jack applying the lock first, then he can move up, but can't apply the lock a second time since he will be too far forwards. This means the only way to advance while using a weapon lock to stay safe is if both Jacks have an open fist. Not realizing this earlier, I had split my Jacks into two pairs with one Open Fist in each, so after the first turn I used a weapon lock, I had to abandon the idea and try to close with the Colossal unprotected.

Well, I would have, but then it turned out a weapon lock is released when either model is knocked down. And that the light Vector with the AOE knocks down all models in the AOE if it directly hits the target. So he was able to knock down a pair of Jacks and break the hold anyway.

Another problem of course is that you can't run or charge then use a lock, so it slows you right down. And it costs focus. And it takes up one Jack's activation. So essentially your heavy hitters are slowly walking across the board, and only one can do anything per turn. In my case that's most of my army. So yeah, I walked up and lost the Spriggan and Decimator before I could get in range. Did I mention that because it has two harpoons, the Prime Axiom can get two free attacks on a single warjack? And it has Sustained Attack? Is there some sort of rule that if you have a harpoon, you also get Sustained Attack?

The Juggernaut eventually made it into combat (charging for free thanks to Harkevich's feat), and did an impressive amount of damage. Black Ivan would have been there as well, except a single Servitor was blocking his charge lane. I was able to charge the Servitor with a mechanic, but he failed to roll the 7 needed to hit. The rest of my mechanics also charged a bunch of models while they were at it, all needing 7s to hit (except I think the Officer, who needed a 6). They all missed. That's at least 4 rolls that failed to come up 7. According to my maths there was about a 14% chance of that happening. Clearly this was no coincidence. Clearly my Mechanics deliberately betrayed me. Perhaps their still sore because I keep using them for cannon fodder? Speaking of, I got about 5 attacks total against his Cypher with my Nyss over the course of both games, in which they were at dice -10 damage. Every single roll, whether they were charging or not, I rolled exactly 10 on the dice. I guess they heard me complain about how ugly they are?

Anyway, I think I only had one focus on Ivan, so I could have trampled up but wouldn't have been able to do anything once I got there (charging is free but trampling isn't under Harkevich's feat), so instead I charged the Servitor and took the free shot from the feat at the Axiom. I didn't have any more focus to give him because Sylyss was dead and I needed to upkeep Escort, and needed the last point of focus to get the Juggernaut on his feet. Hmmm, actually, now that I come to think about it BLACK IVAN HAS BULLDOZE GODDAMN IT! I could have just bulldozed the Servitor out of the way! Hell, even without Bulldoze, I now realize I could have declared the charge against the Axiom and taken the free shot at the Servitor to clear the lane! Damn. Actually, this brings new utility to Harkevich's feat as I can potentially clear charge lanes as part of the charge!

He killed the Juggernaut and the rest of my infantry, leaving Harkevich surrounded by Eradicators. Next turn I killed an Eradicator with Harkevich, cast Broadsides for an extra shot at the colossal, and finished it off with some lucky rolls from Ivan. Then I conceded because the club was closing and I was pretty much done for anyway.

The second game was fun overall (taking down a colossal does give you a sense of achievement even if you lose the game doing it), but it didn't exactly dispel the feeling I had at the time that the Prime Axiom is overpowered. I mean, it costs as much as two Warjacks and it's almost guaranteed to kill a couple of warjacks before you can reach it unless you have a way of not getting harpooned while you charge at it AND you commit at least half your army to killing it - even if you have two hard-hitting Jacks with open fists, like a pair of Stormclads, he can still knock them over with his Vectors to get the drag. You can't really ignore the Axiom unless you have a lot of infantry, including units that can crack armour, and the mission is one you can win without killing it. Screening your Jacks with infantry so they can't get towed is risky since the Prime Axiom can get a lot of shots to clear out the infantry with, and of course he has the rest of his army (including Warjacks that can drop two 4 inch AOEs and ones that can drop AOEs that auto-wound) to help strip your screen away so he can get to the Jacks. And he can just as easily screen the Axiom with his own models - and the damned thing can even create Servitors, like the one that blocked Ivan, so he drop them in place at the last minute to block a charge lane if needed.

Can the Prime Axiom be dealt with? Of course, the Juggernaut was four boxes away from killing it so if the Mechanic had been able to clear out the Servitor I could have killed it and had two Jacks left, giving me a chance for the rest of the game, and now that I've played against it and had time to think I believe I have a slightly better idea of how to deal with it in the future.

But damn, this game is unforgiving sometimes, and building a list from models you like because of their look or fluff is not the way to go if you want to enjoy games. Which is a shame because I for one am not prepared to spend time and money on models I don't like.

So while I was thinking about threat ranges and so on, I came up with some numbers. Harkevich or anyone with Boundless Charge can give a Spriggan an 11 inch melee threat range. Under Strakhov a Spriggan has a 21 inch non-linear melee threat range as long as he's charging a model in Strakhov's control area on the feat turn. Karchev with a Spriggan has a 21 inch non-linear melee threat range (measured from Karchev, if you measure the total distance travelled by the Spriggan it can be as far as 23 inches, so it's 25 inches if you include Reach), but you're probably leaving Karchev completely exposed if you push that far. A Stormclad has a 15 inch melee threat range under Kraye, or a 15 inch non-linear melee threat range when Jack-Marshaled to a Sword Knight Officer.

In fact, with Arlan Strangeways and a unit of Storm Blades, you can run two Stormclads with one having the equivalent of three focus and the other the equivalent of two focus without costing the Warcaster a thing! Of course that's a lot of points, but I think those are all decent units so you're not just paying to get the Stormclads upfield.

This all got me thinking of a spammy Kraye list: two Stormclads, a unit of Storm Blades, and five Hunters. The Hunters are very mobile and only need a single focus point apiece most of the time, able to aim or move in, take a shot with boosted damage against a heavy (or boosted attack against infantry if you need to) and then move away. The Stormclads are cheap to run thanks to the Stormblades, can both move fast with some upkeep juggling, and can deal with infantry with Trample, Electroleap and Iron Horse. I know it's not really a good list and I wouldn't actually play it, but I find the idea entertaining for some reason.

I overheard someone say they think that the Convergence of Cyriss is Privateer Press' attempt to get people to take more Warjacks. Makes sense; between high-focus Warcasters, Induction, the same models being able to heal both units and Vectors as they're all constructs, being immune to "cortex" effects, and other tricks like a Warcaster who makes his whole battlegroup heal d3 boxes each turn, Cyriss sounds like a faction that can pretty much take on Hordes armies on their own terms.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Feet of Clay, Fists Of Granite

A friend recently gave me a Wold Guardian as a gift. It's a really cool model that looks much better to my eyes than most of the Warjacks PP makes (Spriggan excluded). I did a little bit of customization; I changed the pose a little to try to straighten his back a bit and make his "face" a little more prominent (I never even knew he had one before, the official model and pose hide it so well, I just figured the rune on his head was his face). But the biggest change I made was to modify his arms to make them look more like arms and less like... well, they're supposed to look like pneumatic rams or something I guess. Basically I stuck the "ram heads" onto the backs of the arms then swapped them around. This left holes in the backs, which I filled with some "mystic symbols" of my own.

I  considered going for a blue glow instead of green but green felt more appropriate and I have a lot of blue models already, plus I thought green would look nicer. However I wanted to exaggerate the effect, so I tried to darken the rest of the model. I painted the rock in straight black with a dark grey drybrush, and the wood (Doombull Brown and Skrag Brown) and rope (Snakebite Leather) were washed in Devlan Mud rather than a lighter wash like Ogryn Flesh. I also drybrushed them in the same grey - I initially planned to use a much lighter colour like bleached bone, but I thought that using the same grey might tie the colours together better (and of course it was much easier). It didn't work as well as I'd hoped as the grey still looks too grey and not brown enough, but I guess it does tie them together.

I considered painting the greens by just using washes, but I decided to try to be more ambitious and actually layer lots of shades of green (Dark Angels Green, Warpstone Glow, Moot Green), which would give me more control. It took what I like to call "HOLY GOOD GOD forever" (this was partly because I painted the lighter colours after finishing the rest of the model, which I did so I could dry-brush the stone, which meant I had to be really careful, and also it took several layers to get strong light greens), and I'm not sure how much better it looks than a simpler method would have, but oh well. I considered trying to use a green edge highlight or drybrush to create a super-simple object-source-lighting-like effect, but didn't have the courage or inclination once I got to that point. Well, I did drybrush a little on the curved surface behind the head as it was the only surface that was facing and really close to a "glowing" area - in this case a "glowing" spot I'd painted under the head (before sticking it on obviously) to make it stand out against all the black. Also there's a little around the "hands", which was more of an experiment than anything else I suppose.

The gemstone was painted with Mordian Blue, Enchanted Blue, and Ice Blue, then glazed with Guilliman Blue (which darkened things a little more than I expected). It actually looks pretty good from the right angle, but that angle is from below table-top level; normally all you see it the darker upper half, so it's a bit underwhelming, and it looks funny in these pictures because it's reflecting the white table. Still, it provides a nice bit of spot colour.

This is arguably the most ambitious base I've ever painted. I used GW's Stirland Mud texture paint around a twig I picked up while walking the other day and broke into little pieces. I painted it all in Scorched Brown, then painted the wood up to Doombull Brown, drybrushed it all in Snakebite Leather, then washed with Devlan Mud. It blends a little too closely to the wood on the model; I was hoping the Snakebite Leather would be enough to make it look different, but it didn't work well enough.

I picked an autumn like grass rather than a purer green so as to stand apart from the green on the model. Also, I'm planning on using the other green for some Cygnar models I'm hoping to paint someday. I tried to apply it in a more sparing way, the way I've seen it done on other minis, which is less instinctive to do but looks better than a featureless sea of grass. Oh, and I glued some Army Painter "Summer Undergrowth" stuff in some nooks and crannies around the branch, but it's pretty much impossible to see, I should have used a different shade and maybe used a little more of it.

Anyway, it's not as dramatic as it could have been with some OSL, but I think it looks nice over all and I'm happy with it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Return of the Spriggan

I got to play another couple of games against the same guy who trampled me with Legion last time. Now that he knew my army (and that I was crap), he was considerate enough to bring a couple of lists that were more evenly matched. In fact I would even go so far as to say that he brought lists that were made for me to fight (not beat, fight, as in have a fun fight against). Needless to say, I found the game more entertaining, and I think he probably enjoyed it more than he did steamrolling me with Legion (despite the frustration he must have been feeling at knowing that his army should be better).

This time I played Harkevich, who finally arrived in the mail. I've heard that he's not that great a caster, but on paper he almost looks unfair to me. His whole battlegroup gets Pathfinder just like that? And he has an upkeep spell that gives them all +2 movement? So he gets for free (with Sylys at least) pretty much what Sorscha has to pay 2 focus for PER MODEL, and it's all the time, not just when charging? Plus he can spend one focus to make everyone shake? That solves so many problems! Plus it allows them to change facing before their movement? No more not being able to get the charge because I'm looking the wrong way! He has a spell that lets a model reroll attack rolls? That's great considering the low MAT and RAT problem Khador has, and would help a lot with the Berserker! And his feat lets his battlegroup charge for free (which is a big deal for me) AND gives them an armour boost (I think it's the only armour boost in Khador) AND lets them get off a free shot, which doesn't have to be at the model they charge (so they can take out a few infantry models with AOEs at the same time as wrecking a heavy)? I don't know if he's a great warcaster or not - he mainly supports Jacks and not Infantry - but he helps with a lot of the problems I've been having to be sure!

I did make a mistake in these two games in that I thought Escort gave my Jacks +2 speed instead of +2 movement, so I was running 12" instead of 10". I don't know how big a difference it actually made, but oh well.

Game 1

I put the two heavy hitters with Harkevich to make the most out of the focus and mobility boost (Black Ivan mainly only needs one Focus around Harkevich, which he can get from the Koldun Lord's power booster, leaving me with enough to run the other two). The Destroyer does pretty well with just the Kovnik, and of course he runs the Berserker better than a Warcaster does.

- Juggernaut
- Spriggan
- Black Ivan
- Sylys
Man-O-War Kovnik
- Destroyer
- Berserker
Koldun Lord
Mechanics (max) with Man-O-War attachment.

He was running prime Stryker:
- Old Rowdy
- Defender
- Stormclad
- Squire
Journeyman Warcaster
- Defender
Thor Steinhammer
- Rockram
Arlan Strangeways

He won the roll-off and decided to go first. Neither of us had the Steamroller scenario book so we decided to just stick to the three flags thing.

He deployed his army centrally, with Thor on my right and the Journeyman on my left. I put Harkevich, Sylys, the Koldun Lord, and the mechanics behind Harkevich's battlegroup in the center, and the Kovnik just right of them.
Let's get ready to rumble!

Round 1
Striker pulled a point of focus off the Squire, cast Blur on himself, Snipe on the Stormclad, and Arcane Shield (I think?) on the Defender, then advanced. The Journeyman cast Arcane Shield on herself and advanced. Arlan used power booster on the defender and advanced. Striker's battlegroup ran forwards. He hadn't had any focus left for the other Defender, so it could only walk forwards. Thor used his drive to advance the Rockram four inches, then it ran another eight. I have to say I was rather intimidated by how well it could cover ground with Thor running it.
He spent so much casting spells that one jack got left behind.

As usual I had started with my Caster too far from a Jack that I wanted to cast a buff on, in this case Fortune and the Berserker, so I cast it on the Destroyer instead. For some stupid reason that makes no sense. Anyway, Harkevich also cast Escort and stood still. The Koldun Lord used Power Booster on the Spriggan (who missed out on allocation) and stood still. Spriggan and Black Ivan ran towards the central flag, but stayed out of charge range. The Juggernaut ran farther forwards; the idea was that if he didn't charge I would, if he did it would put him in range of retaliation. The Berserker ran his measly 8 inches. The Kovnik walked forwards and used his Drive on the Destroyer... which failed and left him unable to use the Jack Marshal advantage. The Destroyer walked up and took a shot at the Rockram, hitting but only doing something like 3 damage as he couldn't boost damage. The mechanics hid behind the Spriggan and Black Ivan.

We rolled and the flag on my right disappeared.

Round 2
He basically moved all his Jacks up a little and started shooting at mine, doing a fair bit of damage - I think the Juggernaut was left with about 15 damage boxes - but not knocking out any systems. I was actually impressed by how much damage you can potentially do with some boosted shooting, but I lucked out and didn't suffer too badly.
Harkevich bravely stands as far back as he can.

In my turn I killed Thor with the Destroyer, and charged the Rockram with the Berserker, but was just out of range. Some of the mechanics made a move for the other flag while a few tried to fix stuff, but I don't think they did very much. The Juggernaut charged Old Rowdy but was also out of range - I should have charged something closer, but I thought I could make it. Black Ivan moved up to the flag (I don't remember who he shot at but he didn't manage to kill anything). The Spriggan charged the Stormclad and wrecked it, taking out the last four boxes with his last attack. Harkevich and his entourage moved up and hid behind the mechanics.
One down...

I scored a point for controlling the flag. Then I realized that I hadn't paid the focus to charge with the Spriggan, meaning he shouldn't have been able to kill the Stormclad, so we put the it back on the table. Hey, in my defense, at least I remembered eventually.
...aaaand it's back up.

Round 3
The Defenders and the rest of his army wrecked the Juggernaut, allowing Old Rowdy to charge the Spriggan. He did some damage, even scoring a critical hit and knocking him down, but didn't manage to knock out any systems, no doubt thanks to the fact that the Stormclad's systems were all down bar the cortex. Striker disrupted Black Ivan and used his feat.
The Spriggan is knocked off his feet but still alive.

So I forgot how the Push attack worked and did a few things wrong because of that, luckily for me my opponent allowed me to take back a couple of moves and do them differently. Anyway, he had Rowdy and a Defender contesting the flag with +5 armour, so I had some work to do if I was going to keep scoring. I allocated three focus to the Spriggan and let Fortune drop. I considered moving Herkevich up to the flag, but since you can't dominate the central flag and it would have left him vulnerable, I decided try to get him and the mechanics to the left flag instead. I (retroactively) cast Jumpstart to get the Spriggan on his feet, used his feat, and moved Harkevich over to the left along with the Mechanics and the rest of his entourage. The Koldun Lord gave the Beserker a point of focus then joined them.

I slammed the Defender into Arlan Strangeways with Black Ivan thanks to the feat, it wasn't enough to kill Arlan but it did get the Defender away from the flag. The Kovnik used Drive on the Berserker, who moved up to the Rockram and landed both his initials but did no damage with them. Still, that triggered his headbutt attack, knocking the Rockram down. He then bought two more attacks, using the Jack Marshal advantage and the Koldun Lord's focus point, and finally did some damage. Unfortunately I forgot to roll to see if he blew up; in my defense I rarely give the Berserker any focus. The Spriggan activated and moved into base contact with Rowdy, using Bulldoze to push him away from the flag. He was still in 2" range of the Stormclad and Rockram (the Rockram probably would have gotten a free strike if it wasn't knocked down, lucky me), allowing him to finish them off in combat.

So now the flag was clear and all I needed was to get a model into base contact and I would score another point. I had left the Destroyer for that, but naturally he was too far away and didn't make it. Someday I'll learn to judge distances properly.
Old Rowdy wouldn't balance so we had to use an empty base, but he's still alive.

Round 4
He moved Striker up and used Earthquake to knock down my Mechanics and Harkevich. The Defenders then moved up and shot him down to his last few boxes, and the Journeyman finished him off. Thinking back, I don't remember if we took into account the armour boost from the feat, but it probably wouldn't have been enough to save him anyway.
We didn't bother with any markers, but trust me, Harkevich is knocked down.

Game 2
We shuffled our lists a bit then played a second game. I basically just swapped the Juggernaut with the Destroyer to see if Broadside was any good. He swapped Striker for Seige, and Thor and the Rockram for an Avenger and Reinholdt.

This time I won the roll-off and decided to go first. I deployed about the same as before, with my Warjacks in the center and everyone else tightly packed behind them. He deployed in a loose line opposite me.
The problem with starting first is you don't have enough room for your cards.

Round 1
Harkevich activated first and cast Escort on himself and Fortune on Black Ivan (for some reason), but didn't move anywhere. the Koldun Lord handed out his focus point and stood still. I ran Harkevich's battlegroup a full twelve inches forwards, under the vague logic that "since they only move twelve inches and his control area is twelve inches they'll still be in his control area", not realizing for some reason that only works if they all start in base contact. The Kovnik and his Jacks ran forwards as fast as they could, and the mechanics split up to chase both groups.
I wanted to get the firing squad into position early.

Seige cast Foxhole and charged Black Ivan for the extra distance, ending up in the foxhole. The rest of the army advanced as well, with Reinholdt chasing Seige into the foxhole.
Foxhole is actually pretty useful it turns out.

The flag on my left then disappeared.

Round 2
I realized now that I was too far away to allocate focus to Black Ivan or the Destroyer, so I gave some to the Spriggan instead. I moved Harkevich up and cast Broadside. I was never going to hit Seige in the foxhole (and he doesn't even take blast damage), so I shot at the Warjacks instead. I activated the battlegroup and decided not to advance, but to wait and force him to get close, so I just aimed and fired again. The Kovnik's merry band ran for the other flag, and the Mechanics ran up after the Jacks.
I decided to hold my ground and keep shooting.

He dropped the foxhole and spread some focus around. He activated the Stormclad first, moving it up to the flag and taking a shot at the Spriggan, killing a mechanic with the electroleap. He then used Reinholdt to give Seige another shot. Next he activated Seige, moved up and used his feat, then took his two power 14 shots at my Warjacks, and followed it up with the rest of his army. The feat made his shooting brutal, at one point he did 21 damage with a single attack! By the time he was done all three Jacks were knocked down, the Spriggan and Black Ivan had lost their cortexes (cortices?) - as well as some other systems - and the Destroyer had lost his left arm. He also scored a point for controlling the flag.
That hurt.

Round 3
I like to call this "The Perfect Round". I spent a few moments figuring out the order in which I had to do everything, but I had a plan. I couldn't allocate focus to the Spriggan or Black Ivan, but I gave a point to the Destroyer just in case. Another focus went to upkeep fortune. I moved the mechanics up and carefully activated them to get the most important systems online first. They came through for me for once, and I was able to get most of my Warjack systems back up.

The Koldun Lord then moved up and gave the Spriggan a focus point now that his cortex was back. Harkevich moved up behind the Mechanics and used Jump Start to get the Jacks back on their feet, and Broadside just for the hell of it. Seige was at defense 18 in the foxhole, meaning Black Ivan needed a 13 to hit. I didn't think that Black Ivan got boosted attack rolls outside of his activation despite his affinity, but after some discussion everyone else reckoned he should, so I took the shot and rolled three dice. The shot missed. Then I remembered that he had Fortune on him, so I rolled again and got exactly 13, putting some damage on him. The rest of the Jacks did nothing of course. Then I used Harkevich's feat.

Thanks to Jump Start the Jacks could use both their movement and action, and could charge without needing focus, so I was able to charge Black Ivan into Seige. First I took his free shot, and missed. Then I rolled again thanks to Fortune and rolled exactly 13 again! Ivan made it into combat and took his attack, needing an 8 to hit. He missed. So I rolled again and got exactly 8! Seige was down to something like 3 damage boxes left. Next I charged him with the Spriggan. Thanks to Powerful Charge I needed a 6 to hit, but I decided to boost the attack roll rather than try to buy another attack later. It hit, and at three dice plus one damage there wasn't even any point in rolling.

Post Game
I really enjoyed both games because my army actually felt like it had a chance (unlike some games...). This is no doubt largely due to my opponent's deliberate tailoring of an army that played well against mine, but I think the mobility that Harkevich brings really helps as well. It just feels more comfortable, liberating even, to be able to cover distance with your models.

Obviously I enjoyed the second game more than the first, but I think that's less to do with my winning and more to do with how well everything worked out in the Perfect Round. Three times the dice came up with the exact right value on the reroll, all my support models worked together to get the Jacks running (the Mechanics repairing the cortexes allowing the Koldun Lord to allocate focus), and practically all of Harkevich's spells and abilities worked together, complementing each other, to take down Seige (without the free charge from the feat and Jump Start I wouldn't have been able to get the charge, without Fortune, Broadside and the free shot from the feat I wouldn't have dealt most of the damage). I don't expect that sort of turn to be the norm, but it was certainly nice.

The Spriggan was definitely the "man" of the match. Not only did he survive a turn of being surrounded by three heavy Warjacks and go on to scrap two in the first game, he murdered Siege to win the second. He is by far my favourite Warjack now, both for what he's done in my games and for being the best looking Warjack model (both versions in fact) in all Warmachine in my opinion. I wouldn't feel comfortable playing without him at this point.

I'm definitely sticking with Harkevich for a while. I've picked up some Nyss Hunters for my next game, so I'll finally have some infantry to die horribly next to my Warjacks. I'm not sure how I should use them; while they have nice stats and abilities their armour is so low that blast damage will murder them. Oh well, we'll see what happens. I will say one thing though: the more I look at them the more I hate the models. Sigh. I need to figure out a conversion that I can live with, but I don't have time right now.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Khador vs another game entirely

I played a couple of games against another player in my club. He was playing Legion, and to be honest I found the games rather frustrating. I'll talk about why after the actual battle reports, it's as much to do with my personal hang-ups as it is anything else I suppose, but I can't quite seem to shake it. Anyway, I brought a very slightly modified version of my previous Sorscha list:
Prime Sorscha
- Destroyer
- Black Ivan
- Sylys Wyshnalyrr
Man-O-War Kovnik
- Berserker
- Demolisher
Koldun Lord
- Juggernaut
Battle Mechanics (max)
- Battle Mechanic Officer (UA)

I decided to try the Demolisher instead of the Spriggan this time, and since that freed up a point I swapped the dog for Sylys in order to buff Sorscha's spells to help deal with infantry.

He was playing:
Thagrosh (the Messiah I guess)
- Carnivean
- Scythean
- Ravagore
- Angelius
Blighted Legionnaires
Spawning Vessel
two Forsaken

Game 1
I suggested we play the SR2014 scenario with the three flags, as I didn't want to play simple caster-kill and the flags seemed simple enough. We tied the initial roll-off, then I won the re-roll. After going first every time last few games, I wanted to go second this time.

He deployed centrally, with his infantry off to my right a little. Having a big chunk of rough terrain and three flags to worry about, I couldn't exactly deploy centrally, so I put the majority of my force opposite the heavies, and the Juggernaut and Koldun Lord on the other side so it looked like I was going to use them to tie up the infantry - in fact I was hoping for a chance to bring them back over to the center and hit him in the side. For some reason. I don't really know how that would help, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. Kell went in the forest opposite the infantry.

Round 1
Dudes moved. I ran the Berseker forwards thinking that since he was certain to die soon anyway, he could at least do it drawing them out. The Juggernaut and Koldun ran up their side, and Kell moved to the edge of the forest (pointlessly since the Legionnaires don't have ranged attacks). The two Destroyers moved up onto the hill and shot (at the Angelius I believe), but I don't think they did much. I even shot with the Demolisher even though it only has an 8" range, on the off-chance the deviation did something - I figured, hey, why not? Yes, I know, some of now have a red mark on your forehead where you smacked your face with your palm. Finally we rolled and the flag on my left disappeared.
Everybody advanced. The flag on the left disappeared.

Round 2
He moved his warbeasts up to the flag. He might have done some healing on the Angelius. The Ravagore shot at my Demolisher and did something like 11 damage as it was open because I had taken that useless shot last turn. Ugh. I think he may have done a few points of damage to the Berserker, probably with the Carnivean.
I hate seeing four heavy Warbeasts walk forwards in a line.

I allocated two focus to each of the Destroyers, who I moved up and shot at the Shepherd. This first boosted attack missed. Black Ivan went next and hit; I think he killed it without needing a damage roll, so each Destroyer was left with a wasted point of Focus. For some reason that makes me sad.

I realised here that I could probably reach the warbeasts with the Berserker, but that would put it out of jack-marshall range of the Kovnik, and I had foolishly not left him enough room to get past the Mechanics, but I wanted to move the mechanics up to the Demolisher and Berserker to try to repair them before they activated, so I couldn't get them out of the way, and I couldn't get the Demolisher out of the way because I wanted to use the Kovnik's drive ability on him before he activated. After consulting with my opponent we decided that the Kovnik could Drive then run; I'm not too sure about this but he said it was legal, so I figured I could run behind the mechanics after moving them.

Sorscha cast Boundless Charge on the Berserker. I activated the mechanics and moved the officer (who repairs on a 9-) and another mechanic up to the Berserker, and two mechanics over to the Demolisher. Only one mechanic passed his repair roll, and it wasn't even the officer. Sigh. I think he repaired two points of damage. Anyway, the Kovnik used his Drive successfully on both warjacks, then ran around the mechanics. The Demolisher walked forwards and shot at the Ravagore. Both shots hit, but even with a boosted damage roll it did very little damage. The Berserker then charged the Scythean, did a little damage (not very much), knocking him down with his headbutt, but took some damage back from Spiny Growth.

For some reason I ran the Juggernaut over as well; I guess I figured I needed him if I was to have a chance of dealing with that bunch of heavies, and figured I would just have to hope he could survive a charge from the Ravagore without taking too much damage. Besides, I figured if he moved the Ravagore at him I might be able to charge him with the Demolisher later. For lack of anything better to do I killed a couple of Legionnaires with Kell - I wasn't too sure what to expect from the Spawning Vessel, but I decided I could afford to kill just two since it needs three tokens to spawn something.
It has begun!

Round 3
The Carnivian finished off the Berserker, freeing up the Ravagore to shoot at the Juggernaut. The Legionnaires charged at the Juggernaut and Koldun Lord, and a couple that couldn't reach charged their own teammates. They killed the Koldun and a couple of their own peeps, giving the Spawning Vessel an extra token. It activated, moved forwards, and spawned a Shredder. Turns out the Shredder can activate that same turn, which it did, charging and killing Kell. Damn, I need to learn how to keep that guy alive.

Thagrosh then used his feat, before charging the Juggernaut. He was careful to position Thagrosh where he could use reach to hit the Juggernaut, but the Juggernaut could not reach him - even if I walked it around the Legionnaire it would probably die from free strikes. Assuming of course that it survived the attack. Which it did not.

The Carnivean and/or Angelius then destroyed the Demolisher. I guess it also killed some mechanics. After he was done, he used the free move and attack from the feat to reposition some models; bringing the Shredder back over to the flag, the Scythean closer to Sorscha, and possibly kill a mechanic with the Carnivean. With his turn over, he scored two control points for the flags.
All my models die in one turn. The empty base is the Angelius.

At this point I didn't have much left to do but go down swinging, so I gave three focus to each Destroyer and moved Sorscha forwards to use her feat, freezing the three nearby warbeasts. Sylys moved up to shield her. The Kovnik then charged the Angelius, doing something like 17 damage and killing it. The Destroyer charged the Scythean and ran out of focus with the damned thing on a single hit box left. I had been hoping to kill it so I could charge Black Ivan into the Carnivean, but I didn't think he could kill it so my choice was between having two fully functional heavy warbeasts left next turn or just the one. Sigh. So I charged the Scythean and finished it off. The mechanics then charged the Carnivean, doing no damage but at least getting in it's way.

Then I discovered that my opponent also scores points for controlling flags in my turn as well as his own. Unbelievable as it sounds, I didn't know that, and just assumed that each player scored in his turn. Which meant that he now had four points, and the only way for him to not win the next turn was to deliberately move his models away from the flags. So yeah, we stopped there.
Game over man, game over!

Game 2
After the last game I decided to try swapping around my jacks a little to try to give me more punch. He suggested I run the Destroyer with the Koldun Lord, which I decided to try. I swapped Black Ivan for a Decimator and put it in Sorscha's battlegroup with the Juggernaut, leaving the Kovnik with the Demolisher and Berserker again.

We swapped table sides and rolled off. It was a draw (again), then I won the re-roll (again). I chose to go second again.

He deployed exactly the same way again. This time I split my force a little more evenly as I now understood I couldn't afford to ignore a flag. The heavy hitters went opposite his warbeasts, the Kovnik's group were on the other side of the hill, and the Destroyer went directly opposite the infantry with the hopes of shooting at his Spawning Vessel before it could start vomiting gribblies. The mechanics were split between the groups with the Officer in the middle to hold them together. I put Kell on my left this time, hoping he would ignore him in order to focus his heavies on more dangerous models.

Round 1
Dudes ran. Kell banked hard left in the hopes of getting past his warbeasts or drawing one off a little in the off chance that would delay it getting back in to the fight. Sorscha cast Fog of War.
This time I decide to pay attention to the flags.

Round 2
He moved his stuff forwards. The Angelius moved off a little and killed Kell with a ranged attack that I don't think I knew it had. I had careless moved the Kovnik up too far and not hidden him properly, so he took a shot with the Ravagore. It ignored Fog of War because he has eyeless sight. Sigh. Why did I bother with that spell again? Luckily for me the shot only did 4 damage, although it did also kill a mechanic.

I moved up the Destroyer and took a shot at the Spawning Vessel. I did a respectable amount of damage, but not enough to kill it. I did however kill all but one with the blast damage - some lucky rolling there. It was of course ready to spawn now, but it's collection range and mobility were severely cut down so it was less of a threat.
I may have forgotten to allocate focus at the start of my turn...

The Berserker ran up to contest the flag, the Kovnik moved out of the caustic AOV, used his Drive, and shot at a Legionnaire - the Spawning Vessel was already full after all. The mechanics moved up to fix him up to full health (which they can do thanks to the Officer attachment), which unfortunately meant I had to move the rest of the unit to the right as well, but oh well. I also moved Sylys over, thinking he was one of the mechanics for a moment. This is what happens when you don't paint your figures.

The Demolisher got as far behind the fence as he could and shot his grenades. I considered shooting at Thagrosh instead, reasoning that when he passed on the damage it would end up hurting more wherever it ended up as his armour was lower than any of the warbeasts near me, especially as they has spiny growth up. I decided against it in the end as his defense was higher, I wasn't sure he was in range, and my opponent told me about an ability where he can spawn things if he takes damage himself. Instead I targeted the Carnivean and did... not very much.

The Decimator flanked left and shot at something - I don't remember what, it probably missed as it only had one focus on it; I had given three to the Juggernaut and cast Boundless Charge on him.

So here's my moment. For some reason he has let me get close enough to get the charge. I know the Juggernaut won't survive charging three heavy warbeasts, but this is the best chance I'm going to get to kill something like the Scythean - if he can reach, the Juggernaut is the heaviest hitter in Khador short of the Behemoth or Beast. So yeah, I load him up with focus and cast Boundless Charge so he can make the distance and charge for free. I don't feat as I'd rather save it and he shouldn't need it, plus I don't want to move Sorscha too far forwards - the Carnivean, Ravagore, and Angelius all have pretty decent threat range.

So I charge the Juggernaut. He makes the distance - it's almost exactly 9 inches, and I'm pretty pleased with myself at this point for judging the range so well, something that I'm normally pretty crap at. The Scythean had def 11, so I'm hitting on fives, which are pretty damned good odds. I miss the charge attack.
The Juggernaut charges in for the kill...

Sigh. I jokingly claim that I hadn't said which arm I was attacking with, but it's just a joke of course, I roll the second attack with the fist. It connects and does a little damage, but I take almost as much back from Spiny Growth. I buy three more axe attacks, but only two hit. So here's where I am right now:
... and embarrasses all of Khador. Seriously, that's not right.

My big charge with my heaviest hitter, using a total of five focus - almost all I have - does a grand total of twelve damage. And I take six damage back. In my own turn, from my own charge. Sigh.

Now I need to stop here for a moment to try to describe just how upset this made me. If my heaviest hitter, with all the advantages I can give him, using all my resources, could barely manage to scratch just one of his four heavies on the charge, and took half as much damage in return, then what hope did I ever have in this game in the first place? Why was I even here? Why had I spent all this time (which I don't have a lot of right now) and money (which I don't have a lot of right now) and effort (which... well, I'm pretty lazy) for this?

I very nearly just conceded right there, and said as much to my opponent, but that's not in keeping with the spirit of the game, so I tried to just move on and keep playing, making jokes and so on as we went, but the fun had gone out of it for me at that point and I think it showed.

Round 3
I don't remember specifically what killed what here, but he killed the Juggernaut, the Demolisher, and both Men-O-War. The pot spawned something that had reach (he wouldn't have been able to hit the Berserker without it) which charged the Berserker. I think the Angelius took a shot at Sorscha and missed or didn't do much damage. He probably scored a control point as well.
My stuff starts dying again.

I used Sorscha's feat here as I figured it was now or never - all it did was help the Decimator kill the Angelius as it has a very high defense, although he has Sustained Attack so I probably could have managed without it really. Or maybe not, the way things were going. The Koldun Lord used power booster on the Destroyer, who put a bit of hurt on the Carnivean (I think he took out one aspect, which of course means nothing at all), but didn't bother to move as I didn't see the point. The Mechanics jammed up the Scythean and the Ravagore to stop them from getting to Sorscha and the Decimator. Again he scored off the central flag.
Well, at least I killed the Angelius.

He finally finished off the mechanics, Berserker, and Destroyer, though he used all his Legionnaires to do it, meaning the Koldun Lord was spared. He also moved a couple of models over to the flag, so this turn he scored two points, meaning he was up to four.
There go the Berserker and Destroyer.

He suggested that the Koldun Lord's spray attack had enough range and was powerful enough to do some damage to Thagrosh, and with the Decimator it might be enough to kill him, even with two fury for transfers. Seeing as he only needed one more point to win it was obvious that there wasn't much else I could do. But just for the hell of it, I moved up and killed a Legionnaire first with the Koldun Lord and used his Battle Wizard ability to cast the spell. I was sure I was going to fail to kill the Legionnaire, but I didn't see as it would make any difference really. I may also have gotten the range of Frostbite (8 inches) mixed with the range of Ice Cage (10 inches), I'm not sure. It doesn't matter since it did a whole 1 point of damage to Thagrosh.

I could either boost one attack and one damage roll or both attack rolls with the Decimator. In retrospect with power 15 against armor 17 (and with him using fury to transfer) I should have boosted both attack rolls, but I wasn't exactly in the mood to do the math just then and I boosted the first damage roll. The second attack missed obviously.

At this point I realized that Sorscha might just be in charge range. Had I considered the option ahead of time I probably would have positioned the Decimator out of her charge path, but it didn't occur to me at the time, and she only just made the charge going around him. Of course she had to use Wind Rush and was left with only one focus, which wasn't enough. With my turn over he scored the last point and won the game.
Oh well, at least I have one warjack left.

Post game thoughts
I did not realise he could score in my turn, which is partly why I completely ignored his infantry first match - I didn't think he would make that many points off it, so I thought I could sacrifice those points in order to have a chance at dealing with his warbeasts. My mistake.

He missed something like three attacks in total over the course of both games, thanks to Signs and Portents. That hurts.

I wonder if it would have been better to leave all the focus on Sorscha for the charge? At least she would have had a chance of freezing him then not needing to boost attack rolls. Whatever, I doubt it would have been enough the way my dice were rolling.

It wasn't that I rolled really badly on the juggernaut, in fact rolling all ones might have been funny. No, I just rolled a little below average, and that was it. My best chance of doing any damage at all to his warbeasts was scuppered by a couple of below average rolls. That's what makes it so depressing: it just feels like I never had a chance to begin with. It's not that my opponent was trying to club baby seals or anything, his list was just much more powerful than mine I guess. Obviously he's a much better player as well.

And now for the rant
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I understand that I'm still new to the game, I lack experience and I still don't fully understand the rules. I know that the synergy is a big part of the game, and that clever use of support units and abilities can create very powerful combinations that will always feel "overpowered" when compared to normal units that aren't being used to their full potential, and that the point is to find the right combinations to boost your own army's power levels or counter theirs, and I just don't know enough to do that yet, so of course it will feel like I don't have a chance. So this rant isn't a criticism of the game, I guess this is just me venting about how frustrating it feels to a beginner when he get steamrolled.

Having got all that out of the way, lets talk again about the difference between Warmachine and Hordes. I've said some of this before, but let's not worry about that and start again as I've had more experience against Hordes since then.

First of all, Fury. Unlike Focus, Fury is essentially used twice: one by the Warbeast being forced, and once by the Warlock to cast spells and buy attacks and boost and heal. In other words, Hordes armies fundamentally have twice as much resources as Warmachine armies. In a single turn a Fury six Warlock can spend six Fury AND his Warbeasts can be forced six times, while a Focus 6 Warcaster can either spend six Focus OR give it to his Warjacks to use.

But that's not actually true; in a single turn the Warlock could spend six Fury and his Warbeasts can also generate much more than six fury. Yes, there will be consequences next turn, but he has that option, while Warmachine armies don't.

In these two games my opponent had three other models in his army that could take focus from his Warbeasts, and I think he could have included at least one more Nyss Shepherd. I don't know how much Fury the Forsaken can take, but I know the Shepherds can take three, so that's another six plus Fury the army can make use of without issue. Yes, Warmachine armies have some ways of generating a little more Focus, but nothing nearly as powerful: models with Power Booster (which you can only take only one of in Cygnar or Khador) can only give one Focus to a Warjack that doesn't already have any, Jack Marshals give the equivalent of a Focus point (almost, you can't use it to trigger special abilities some Warjacks have that specifically use Focus) and can sometimes give them other advantages, etc. But the problem is all these just allow you to run most jacks at about half their full potential. OK, Cygnar has a Journeyman Warcaster, and other armies are as we speak getting their own equivalents, but those are still only one per army at best, and Legion can get two Shepherds plus the Forsaken.

What's more, Jack Marshals and Journeymen Warcasters can only help Warjacks in their own battlegroups, which means you don't get the advantages of being in the Warcaster's battlegroup (many spells and feats affect specifically models in their battlegroup). Of course if the Marshal or Journeyman dies, the jacks are practically crippled. I'm not sure about this, but it seemed as if the Shepherds and Forsaken were taking Fury from models that were still in the Warlock's battlegroup, meaning that they still had all the advantages of being in a single battlegroup, and if the Shepherds died then the Warlock could still manage those Warbeasts.

As I've mentioned before, the fact that Hordes armies don't have to allocate at the start of the turn the way Warmachine armies do means they are less likely to waste Fury; when allocating Focus to Warjacks you need to judge how much they need at the start of the turn, and if you misjudge (remember dice rolls make a huge difference in what you achieve; it might take two attacks to kill something or it might take five), while Warbeasts can just keep being forced until they achieve what you needed them to, then you move on, so nothing is wasted. Plus some heavy Warbeasts can be forced up to four or even five times, while Warjacks can only be allocated three Focus.

When a Warlock camps Fury he can use it to transfer a lot of damage for a single Fury point - I think in my first game against Legion the Warlock transferred something like fifteen points of damage from a single attack for a single Fury point. Warcasters just get an armour boost, so two or three points of camped Focus does rather little for their survivability, while it makes a Warlock practically unkillable, short of charging him with an entire unit. Plus of course they can afford to camp Fury better than a Warcaster can. An additional benefit of this is that they can much more easily move up the board and be in range to use their Fury where it's needed.

What this all means is that WARLOCKS HAVE AT LEAST TWICE AS MUCH RESOURCE AS WARCASTERS, AND THEY USE IT MORE EFFICIENTLY, AND WITH LESS RESTRICTIONS AND DISADVANTAGES. Yes I know they can suffer a lack of Fury if they run low on warbeasts, but even then they are not without options.

The fact that Warlocks can more easily move up the field without dying not only puts them in a better position to use their Fury, it also puts them in a better position to dominate objectives and zones, meaning it gives them an advantage when playing a scenario. Of course the fact that they are harder to kill means they have an advantage in non-scenario games. In other words WARLOCK HAVE A FUNDAMENTAL ADVANTAGE FOR SCORING AND WINNING IN ALL TYPES OF GAME.

So it turns out Warbeasts have something called an "Animus", which is a spell they can cast. However, it seems that the Warlock can also cast the spell as if he had it. This means that you're not limited to only the spells your Warlock has on his card, you can also pick specific spells you want by including the appropriate Warbeast in your army. A few Warjacks have special abilities that can be compared to an Animus in that they use Focus, but these aren't added to a Warcaster's arsenal. Plus, those ablities cost the Warjacks focus, taking it out of the limited amount you can allocate to them, but the fact that a Warlock can cast an Animus can sometimes allow you to cast it on a Warbeast without "costing" the Warbeast itself Fury, so it can still use all it's Fury for combat.

Warlocks can heal Warbeasts from a distance using Fury. To heal a Warjack you normally need Mechanics, who have to be in base contact and pass a skill check. While it doesn't cost Fury, and typically has the potential to repair a lot more damage in a turn, it costs points to buy the mechanics, and it's harder than it sounds to actually pull off as a Warjack will often charge ahead, but mechanics need to move then use their action to repair so they can't move as far as a charging Warjack. Plus they die easily, and can sometimes get in the way when you're trying so hard to keep them near your Warjacks. In all my games with mechanics I've almost never had them make any difference. In the first game I failed three out of four repair checks, in the second game I think I failed one out of two. Plus Shepherds can do some healing too, so Hordes armies also have ways to increase their healing abilities. Overall Hordes armies ALWAYS have healing potential, and it's easier and more reliable for them, while Warmachine armies have to buy it and can loose it and can fail to do it.

Warbeasts have a life spiral and Warjacks have a damage grid. One of the differences between them is that Warbeasts have three "aspects", of which at most two can be crippled (by the time the third aspect is crippled it's dead), while Warjacks typically have at least four systems and sometimes have more, and it is possible to lose all the systems before being destroyed (some models have abilities that target specific systems). This alone is not exactly a disadvantage; a warjack is often less concerned about losing a single arm than a Warbeast is about losing it's Body aspect. However, it never takes more than a two Fury to heal a Warbeast back to full function, but a Warjack will often need more boxes to be repaired in order to go back to full function. Also, the way the system boxes are arranged and thanks to some special abilities like Critical Amputation, it's actually kinda easier to take out a system than an aspect. OK, these aren't big deals, but combined with how easily a Warlock can heal his Warbeasts, it feels like it can make a difference.


These conclusions refer to the base rules of the two games, and mainly concern Warlocks/Warcasters and Warbeasts/Warjacks. I'm not aware of any differences between the rules for infantry and solos, so unless there are inherent advantages to infantry in Warmachine, then the two rule sets do not seem balanced and Hordes seems to be more powerful.

This conclusion is based only on the main rules and not on specific instances. It is still possible for the two games to be balanced based on the individual rules and abilities of the specific models in the various armies. I don't know if that is really the case, I have been told that it is and I am willing to believe it, but so far it just doesn't feel that way to me.

So let's talk infantry. There's two things to consider: the quality of infantry in the different armies, and the ability of the Warcaster/Warlock to support that infantry. First of all, the only Hordes infantry I've seen were not very impressive, but we're only talking about two or three different units and they were cheap and did some work, so I can't really say either way.

Second, I don't know how about the prevalence of infantry support spells in Hordes, but I do know that Signs and Portents was brutal in those two games. It buffs the entire army, making them all hit reliably and hard, so as far as I know you can have a Hordes army that supports it's infantry well. I know the spell is available in Warmachine armies, but I believe it's one of the best support spells around, and Hordes has it. Also, and this is a big deal, Warlocks can better afford to cast these spells because, as discussed, they have more resources. Signs and Portents costs the Kador warcaster Vladimir four Focus, leaving him with just three to spend on his Warjacks, while Thagrosh can cast it, have all his Warbeasts go all out, and still camp three Fury.

Now that we've starting talking about specifics, let me talk about Legion. So I guess all, or at least most of, their Warbeasts have Pathfinder? Eyeless Sight seems to be quite prevalent as well. So they just ignore all the difficulties and and defensive abilities other armies have to deal with? A slight exaggeration of course, but my Warjacks have speed 4, so difficult terrain is really crippling  so much of the time, and they're all RAT 4 so even a little bit of added defense means I'm almost guaranteed to miss. Legion doesn't give a damn.

Speaking of, all his heavy Warbeasts were speed 6. Except for the Angelius, which was speed 7. Yes, most Kador warcasters have some way of giving at least one Warjack a speed boost and/or pathfinder under some circumstances (usually when charging), but it's generally expensive, situational, and not guaranteed. More mobility is a massive advantage, and most of his Warbeasts' other stats were also equal or higher, and they all got more attacks - additional and sometimes even initial (the Carnivean gets three initials melee attacks AND an assault spray attack, and they could all buy up to four extra melee attacks). The only thing my Warjacks had on them was resilience (armour and perhaps damage boxes), and of course he had Spiny Growth for that.

Now I need to talk about Spiny Growth. First of all, I get the impression that most factions have a way to buff their Warjacks/Warbeasts in whatever area they are weakest, and rarely in whatever area they are strongest. So ironically Khador Warjacks, which are supposed to about the most resilient around, almost never get armour buffs (I think Harkevich's feat is the only thing I know that can do it), while other factions with lower armour stats can buff their armour to exceed that of Khador Warjacks. I guess it's fair, it's not like it's free after all, althoug it just feels annoying sometimes - at least it can feel like your Warjacks are not performing as promised by the fluff. And Spiny Growth isn't the biggest armour boost around. But! Spiny Growth doesn't just buff armour.

No, Spiny Growth does more than that. When you hit a model that has Spiny Growth up, you take D3 damage.

This is kind of a big deal. You see, Warmachine has two basic systems that protect you from damage. Defense and Armour. Some models rely on a high defense but have low armour, while others rely on their armour and have low defense, and of course most are somewhere in between. The point is there's a sort of rock-paper-scissors system for choosing the right weapon for the right job, and the right strategy to keep your models alive; some units or models are good at punching through armour but likely to miss high defense models, some units or models have high accuracy or put out a large volume of shots and so have a good chance of hitting even high defense models, but aren't powerful enough to have much chance of killing high armour models. And so on.

And yes, there's a few special abilities and weapons that can completely bypass one or the other. Electro-leap and blast damage hit automatically (sort of). Snipe and Anatomical Precision can ignore armour. However, things like Electro-leap and blast damage usually have low power and aren't very good against high armour targets. Things like Snipe and Anatomical Precision still have to hit, and they only do one damage point so most tough targets aren't too scared.

The point is, all these ignore only one of the two defensive systems, I don't know of anything in the entire game that ignores both defense and armour... EXCEPT SPINY GROWTH! It doesn't matter if my movement system is crippled and I'm DEF 7 or if I'm at DEF 24 (for example Nyss Hunters with Iron Flesh attacking from behind a low wall), or if I'm at ARM 10 or ARM 28 (for example the Centurion with Arcane Shield and Stryker's feat), it does exactly the same amount of damage. D3.

Again, that might not sound like much, but think about it. If I hit him five times with a Warjack - and in my experience an ARM 20 heavy usually takes at least four or five hits to kill - that does an average of 10 damage to my Warjack. That's about a third of the damage of an average heavy Warjack, and it can be up to 15 damage, which is around half. That's really bad, especially when you consider that it could cripple the Warjack's weapon halfway through the attack. But it's even worse against infantry. If I charge this guy with normal infantry, they will all die. Period. Well, except the ones that miss of course, scant conciliation that is. Bear in mind that I'm unlikely to kill him with infantry shooting as it's typically not very high power, meaning it's almost impossible to kill him with infantry without outright sacrificing the unit.

And remember, this isn't a Warlock spell, but a Warbeast spell, meaning that any Legion army can have it. I'm sorry, but in my book that's just plain overpowered!


Even assuming that the games are balanced overall - which I'm having a hard time with myself - I just can't get away from the fact that Hordes is much better at running large numbers of heavies. I guess that's why it's called Warmachine and not Warmachines: you're only supposed to use one. And I guess "Hordes" refers not to hordes of little gribblies, but hordes of massive monsters?

The problem is I wanted to play Jack-heavy, at least at first. Part of what drew me to the game was the idea of having a few focal models with a range of abilities that rely on an interesting resource management system that makes the game unique, rather than having tons of small limited models that play almost exactly the same as in other tabletop wargames. I mean, if I'm only playing infantry, what's the difference between that and Warhammer? Yes I know the rules are different but not enough that the game doesn't feel somewhat similar without the focus mechanic - the focus is what makes it something other than the same game with a different set of stats and slightly different order of activation. Hell, the introduction game I played when I was still just thinking about starting was just Warcasters and Warjacks, no infantry at all! I call that false advertising!

But I guess I need to get over it. Warmachine is a competitive game by nature - it's in the rules, while Warhammer is a friendly, narrative game by nature - it's in the rules. And it seems perhaps I'm just not a competitive gamer. Truth is I don't even particularly want to win, I'm very happy to keep losing. What I don't like is feeling like my models are not doing what they are supposed to, feeling like my models (not my army, my models) are inferior. I'm happy to lose the game after my warjacks wreck face, but to have them hobble forwards, slap ineffectually at the enemy, then get beat down without the enemy breaking a sweat... what's the point of playing the game? Yes I know this is partly a result of army building, but one reason (not the only reason) I picked warjacks was to have models that could feel powerful, even if I end up losing because they are expensive and get swarmed by large numbers of cheaper models. Hell, maybe it was just bad luck recently, but it didn't feel like it.

Anyway, all whining aside, I haven't given up on the game quite yet (although I am thinking perhaps I should be looking at something more like Infinity...), but I am going to have to give up on my Warjacks. I'll probably want to pick up some Cygnar eventually seeing as I really like the look of their infantry models (not so much their Warjacks... dammit!), but in the short term I'm thinking of getting some Mercenary infantry that I can, in the long run, use in either army.