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
- Sylyss Wishnalyrr
Mechanics (max) with Officer UA
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.
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.
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.