Monday, August 19, 2013

Nerdycon 2013 - Who's the Boss?

This past weekend, NZ held its (to the best of my knowledge) first "Who's the Boss?" tournament in Auckland.

Who's the Boss is a casual tournament format where you come prepared with a single faction list +5 WJ/WB points, and your caster is randomly allocated to you before each tournament round via use of a giant spinning wheel of fortune featuring the name of every caster in the game + some bonus surprises, such as:
  • Free spin (like a reroll for the wheel, in case you get a bad caster first time)
  • Bankrupt (lesser warlock)
  • Jackpot (choose ANY caster you want outside your faction)
  • Dealer's Choice (TO gets to screw you over by picking your caster)
  • Free spoon (literally, a free spoon to take home)

My list was basically a standard Barnabas 35pt list, with the substitution of a Swamp Horror for a Spitter (I thought giving reach would be sweet) and a Feralgeist/Swamp Gobber team instead of the usual Totem Hunter or Croctor:

2x Full Posse
Swamp Gobber

The Horror was good on the grounds that it had a crapload of initials and never seemed to take any damage since it was usually hanging around infantry, the animus didn't really come into play as much as I thought it would. The Feralgeist was a very useful scenario piece as usual, and I even remembered to take over a dead warbeast once!

A crapload of casters

Game 1: Wrong Eye vs Ret (Shae) - Close Quarters

CASTER (*5pts)
* Phoenix (10pts)
* Sylys Wyshnalyrr, the Seeker (2pts)
Houseguard Halberdiers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (7pts)
* Houseguard Halberdiers Officer & Standard (2pts)
Lady Aiyana & Master Holt (4pts)
Mage Hunter Strikeforce (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Mage Hunter Commander (2pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)

I was unlucky enough to be the first of two people to roll Bankrupt! on the wheel during the day, resulting in being given either the Journeyman, Dahlia + Skyryth, Rorsch + Brine or WE + Snapjaw (Brun+Lug were unavailable). Fortunately for me, the dice decided on Wrong Eye, which I had in my case fully painted and know how to play very well.

My opponent was Luke, who is a pretty experienced player and general all-around classy guy but was just starting Ret so wasn't 100% familiar with his stuff, so getting a totally new caster on top of that helped even things up with my lesser warlock.... although Shae with Ret is patently unfair. Shae with almost any melee infantry is patently unfair.

My first turn I put Submerge on WE, Spiny Growth on a Wrastler and charged up behind a wall. The rest of my stuff ran up (Snapjaw submerged)..... and I ran the Wrastler barely outside my 8" control area. Super sweet start. On Shae's turn, he put Storm Rager on a Mage Hunter Assassin, feated and I got charged by said Storm Ragered MHA from 17" away. He passed the Terror check due to the surrounding Dirge Gators, and hit Wrong Eye (needing a 5, since I am DEF 12 + wall bonus), and by the grace of Kossk at dice -6 rolled a 1,1,2,5... leaving Wrong Eye on 2 boxes. Yowzer.

The Wrastler with 1 fury outside my control frenzied, killed a Gatorman... then the Posse proceeded to eat all the Ret infantry while Wrong Eye sat behind his wall with Submerge and 2 transfers. The beasts understandably didn't do much, although the Horror did some heavy lifting with its many initial attacks, tying up a clump of MHSF.

I managed to live long enough to see the end of the game through WE's healing (Life Drinker on his Bite + Bond with Snapjaw) and some transfers. He healed up to 5, then went back down to 1 thanks to some Halberdier charges. Eventually Luke deathclocked himself (same thing happened last game we played) and I won a game with a lesser as my warlock.

Game 2: Lich3 vs Ret (eMagnus) - Outflank

CASTER (*5pts)
* Hyperion (18pts)
Dawnguard Sentinels (Leader and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
* Banshee (10pts)
* Dawnguard Sentinel Officer & Standard (2pts)
Arcanist (1pts)

This game was against a newer player I hadn't met before named Lance, who had a really nicely painted Hyperion, crisp white and everything. It looked amazing as a centerpiece.
This game was a significant step up in caster power and got Lich3, who is pretty damn strong in Gators with the fury mechanic. He has one of the best rounded buff lists in the game, is very survivable, and comes with a free arc node/soul collector. Probably one of the best casters I could have received.

He deployed Hyperion on my right flank, and the rest of the list to the left. The Banshee was being marshalled by the Sentinels, which I don't think I have ever seen, but as far as jack marshalls go Pronto is a pretty good drive so the Banshee can Pronto up, aim and boost damage (or boost both with Arcanist focus).

I used a Swamp Horror and 1 unit of Gators with Scything Touch to deal with the Hyperion, the Wrastler in the middle to go either side, and the rest of my list (featuring Ashen Veiled Posse) to deal with the Sentinels and dominate the left zone.

I don't remember the game in too much detail, but he feated turn 2 which allowed him to grab a control point in the Hyperion zone after shooting 3 Gators to death, and getting a few melee swings on my Wrastler with the Banshee. eMagnus' feat turn is pretty bad when you have no guns at all and your arc node is held back. Next turn I managed to almost scrap a Hyperion by charging it with a the two remaining Gators and a Scything Touch Swamp Horror under Mobility, and the Wrastler wrecked the Banshee thanks to some beasty damage rolls. Lich3 also Bone Shakered some Sentinels that were blocking my Gator charges, leading to a lot of dead elves.

Next round the Swamp Horror died on Hyperion's last attack and was then taken over by a Feralgeist who managed to finish the Colossal, and Lich3 finished off the rest of the Sentinels, sitting in the zone with 4 fury + his feat (aka. utterly unkillable) and a Wrastler ran 14" up into Magnus' face. 5CPs to me, and I lost about 5 Gators in the process. Not really a fair matchup, but probably fairer than Rask vs Retribution in general.

Game 3: pGoreshade vs Circle (pHaley) - Incursion

CASTER (*5pts)
* Gorax (4pts)
* Warpwolf Stalker (10pts)
* Warpwolf Stalker (10pts)
Shifting Stones (2pts)
* Stone keeper (1pts)
Shifting Stones (2pts)
Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew (Leader and 1 Grunt) (1pts)
Tharn Bloodtrackers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Nuala the Huntress (2pts)

This game was against Big Luke (who is physically smaller than other Luke but is a big shot tournament player so it increases his stature), who managed to get pHaley with Circle. That means TB + army at full efficiency. Fortunately for me, I had Mage Blight to force him back to the edge of the Kill Box and a Deathstalker to buff my armor even more against those Stalkers.

I actually really quite liked pGoreshade in Gators. The Deathstalker made quite a difference throughout the game, giving Goreshade an additional pseudotransfer and debuffing Stalkers. Shadowmancer is also a really cool spell for pillow-fisted Gator beasts, and giving your caster stealth never hurts. Here's hoping for that spell on epic Calaban, the Unsuckened. Mage Blight made a pretty big difference in this game, but to be fair to Cryx, I do not understand how this thing can cost 5 and Purification cost 3.

The play in this game was pretty bad overall, but far worse on my part. I made a few colossal mistakes that should have lost me the game, such as forgetting that Wrastlers can't charge over linear obstacles, and forgetting to pop Goreshade's feat. How the hell do you forget to bring in 6 Banes for nothing? Nobody knows.

Anyway, the flag to my left disappeared and we had my Feralgeist and his Gobbers hang out at the right flag the whole game, making scenario a non-issue. Basically, Haley cast TB every turn so was 100% safe from Gators who spent their time slowly chewing through squishy infantry, and he got 2 legit assassination attempts on Goreshade, which all failed:
  1. Early teleportation of a non-Primaled stalker on a clump of Gators, killing three of the four within melee range (thanks Deathstalker!). I spent my whole turn figuring out how to get my Wrastler to kill this Stalker since the area was very cluttered with models and a wall. I failed to execute anything in a sensical order and did basically nothing that turn, even forgetting to put Spiny Growth on Goreshade which would have made a huge difference.
  2. Same Stalker, now Primaled, managed to chew through all of Goreshade's transfers but 1, and kill the Deathstalker.
  3. Last ditch attempt with Haley charging a Gator to get within 5" of Stealth Goreshade, who was now on 1 box with 1 transfer, and missed the second Arcane Bolt which would have certainly killed him. Next turn the Wrastler deathrolls Haley and a Posse member kills her.
Sad, sad example of a Warmachine game, but sometimes you luck out.

Game 4: Makeda3 vs Ret (pKreoss) - Process of Elimination

CASTER (*5pts)
* Banshee (10pts)
* Phoenix (10pts)   (super sweet Phoenix wielding his sword with both hands - looks way better than the usual pose)
* Sylys Wyshnalyrr, the Seeker (2pts)
Mage Hunter Strikeforce (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Mage Hunter Commander (2pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)

This final game was against Chris Baker, who in the past has had a bad rep for being a douche in game, but to be honest the last two games I have played against him since he started shaving his head have been clean, fun games with zero drama. I even gave him my best sports vote, because someone has to, and it was probably my most balanced and enjoyable game of the day.

Pregame, I rolled Lich1, who wasn't available for whatever reason, so I eventually ended up getting pKreoss, which is nothing to complain about. On his end, Chris managed to roll the wheel about 400 times, getting a bunch of respins, a Double Cross, eventually landing on Makeda3. He decided to use his double cross because pKreoss with fury, Purification and Lamentation against Makeda3 in Ret would really suck. I think this probably worked out in my favour either way since without a damage buff I would have a hard time killing a DEF 15/ARM 19 Makeda camping on a few focus along with a pair of heavy jacks, meaning I would have to grind it out on scenario by throwing things to die at Makeda's feet to keep her in place.

Makeda3 is an interesting caster in the same way that she is incredibly boring. She does absolutely nothing for her army outside her feat (which in this case was nothing since I don't have Molik or Bronzebacks) and making Skorne troops fearless (the only Skorne troops you see are Fearless anyway), and is not really a competitive caster in the current format because she MUST get up close in melee to have any impact on the game - either that, or sit back with Sunhammer and do about 1/8th of what she is capable of. While I do like casters that can get their hands dirty, my favourite casters are the ones that actively power their army through synergies and buffs while also being able to do work and not die to a strong breeze ie. Barnabas, Butcher2 or Gaspys123. Makeda3 does little but charge in, blow stuff up, face-tank and hope her insane defensive stats keep her up.

Anyway, there was a large hill in the middle of the table and a bunch of other terrain on the sides that made no difference at all the entire game. I ran some stuff up, he feated early to knock down all my Gators, denying them the +2 ARM which I think was probably the best use of the feat given that Makeda with a few transfers is very unlikely to die to MHSF, Spiny Growth or not, and the Gators are very unlikely to die to MHSF at ARM 18. The Strike Force manage to kill about half the Gators on the table with charges, and he jams both his heavies in front of Kreoss to protect him from a potential Rise Gator Missile.

Fortunately for him, the Horror is 4.75" away from the Wrastler so too far to throw him forward. Hence I spend my turn destroying an objective with Makeda, forgetting to activate the statues in her unit, killing a couple of Defender's Warded MSHF with Gators (DEF 16 is balls, but rerolls are legit), and fluffing boosted attack rolls with my beast under Makeda's feat (which basically means "free boosts if you can hit!" in this army). In retaliation, he kills my Wrastler with a Banshee and some monster damage rolls. I then charge said Banshee with Makeda and her Statue Sisters, managed to kill it handily, and kill Eyriss and a few more MHSF with Gatormans. I then do my only pro move of the entire tournament, which is to run a Feralgeist right in front of Makeda such that the Phoenix isn't able to walk up and engage her without taking two free strikes from Gatormans.

He attempts an assassination on Makeda with Kreoss, purifying off Spiny Growth and doing a decent amount of damage, following it up with 2 Mage Hunter Assassins (they could see her as she was on the hill) who fluff their rolls and a Phoenix with some focus, but she lives with a few damage boxes and 1 transfer, which I use to transfer away the continuous fire damage roll from the Phoenix and then kill Kreoss.

Thoughts on the format

So there you go, I went 4-0 during the day and became The Boss, and got this super sweet trophy:

Not a mug, but I'll take it
First, I got a bit lucky in the draw playing against Ret three times since I play against them so often I know what all their stuff does and Gators chew through living infantry like nobody's business. I realize that Gators with Rask or Barnabas usually just steamroll over Ret in general without breaking a sweat, but one has to keep in mind that I didn't have either of those casters available so my Gators were as prone to getting shot as any other infantry and my opponents also had access to casters that are far better than usual Ret casters. So while I did get exceptionally lucky a few times in game and in the caster allocation, I like to think I ultimately won the games I did due to being very familiar with my faction's abilities and general knowledge of the game rather than facerolling over Ret like I can with Rask. Better lucky than good, as I was told.

I don't think Gators are a spectacularly amazing list in Who's the Boss - I mean, it's not like I couldn't run pretty much the exact same list in Skorne and Legion with far better beasts in a standard format. Ashen Veil and Scything Touch (or Fury) are both friendly buffs, not Faction specific. The only "non-standard" thing really was getting battlegroup buffs like Shadowmancer, Makeda3's feat and Mobility on Gator beasts, which isn't that much scarier than getting those on good heavies .
To me, the strength of Blindwater is their really survivable casters who allow Gatorman Posse to reliably get across the table and do their thing while controlling your opponent's response. Without that, it's basically just a Faction X force with mediocre beasts and a lot of Minions.

Second, the format was also not as broken as I had expected. Other than getting lesser warlocks or a Jr as your caster, I didn't experience any huge power spikes that felt different to a usual game of Warmachine. The strongest caster I played by far was Lich3, but basically any time I have played with or against Cryx, it seems like that level of power if you choose the correct list. Lich3 with a Deathjack, some Banes and some Black Ogrun would have been just as potent I think. The format is understandably too random and with a lot of potential for unmitigatable skew in matchups to be taken seriously as a competitive format but nevertheless, on the whole it still seemed less broken than Mk1 :P

Third, playing Hordes in this format is also clearly far, far better than playing Warmachine. If you get a WM caster with your Hordes list, you are basically doubling up on resources and getting OP spells and feats with little downside. Whereas spells like Mage Blight or Temporal Barrier take up a massive portion of your resources in WM, leaving your warjacks to flap their dicks in the wind for most of the turn, they are relative freebies in Hordes. If you have a Warmachine list and get a Hordes caster, chances are you're probably not going to get anything amazing.... like getting Arkadius in your 1-warjack list.

Fourth, I finally discovered a benefit to Minions being deemed a "complete faction" - playing Gators negated me from getting crappy Pig casters (besides Carver, of course). Woot! It didn't save me from lessers since basically all of them are Minion/Mercs though.

Finally, Who's the Boss? is and was a lot of fun. Although I am a pretty average player, I really like thinking about systems and how things interact and how changing one part of the system completely changes the whole. Warmachine is a really good game for that, and Who's the Boss? gives you a whole new mental dimension on the game. Having everyone anxiously staring at the wheel seeing what caster you're going to get each round, and sharing in your pain when you get a lesser warlock provides a really chilled out fun atmosphere to a tournament.

Thanks to Damian Caulfield for running a really nice casual event and for putting together an awesome caster wheel! Looking forward to the next one :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Raluk Moorclaw, the Iron Monger

So apparently Blindwater gets a new model in Vengeance. By golly gosh. Here he is, lifted off the endgame website:

Here is what he brings:

  • Troll with ok physical stats: DEF 13 ARM 15 with 8 boxes and Tough. Just a little less survivable than the average Gatorman.
  • Decent combat capabilities: MAT 6 with a POW 13 non-reach melee weapon, but has assault and a RAT 6 RNG 4 POW 14 slug gun. Again, probably a little less damage output than the average Posse grunt, and the short-ass range on that gun doesn't really make or break anything.
So all up he is probably worse than Pendrake as a solo, given that Pendrake has better weapons, a reroll on a longer ranged attack and their survivability is about the same, give or take.
  • Repair! He can repair the Battle Engine we will probably get never get. Winnah.
  • Jack Marshall seems to be the big thing. Let's focus on that part for a bit:

Jack Marshall of the swamps

He has a Drive, which already puts him in the upper half of jack marshalls. His CMD is 9, which means the Drive has a good chance of succeeding. The Hog Wild Drive allows the warjack to take a free shot before moving/charging/running/crying himself to sleep. I guess that is not terrible - it is probably the best ability on Brigands.

Jack marshalls are generally bad because jacks require an assload of focus to do anything relative to their points cost. 1 focus a turn + one gun shot usually doesn't justify the cost of a warjack. But let's entertain the possibility. He will definitely want a ranged warjack, because melee warjacks  are very underwhelming with only one potential focus, and because his drive is a pretty big buff to ranged jacks, in that they can get off a boosted shot and then walk backwards. Boostable guns are a pretty big deal for Blindwater.

  • Vanguard - It brings a Shield Guard option to the faction with possibly the best anti-shooting tech in the game, so no big gain in Gators. But for Pigs, it can be a big deal for most of their casters. Hog Wild is also mutually exclusive with Assault, so that is also lost. What you are left with is a sturdy, reliable light. Overall, not a bad choice but not a great choice either.
  • Mule - Hog Wild is mutually exclusive with the extra range from Steam Pressure, but still adds a little flexibility. The Mule usually boosts hit rolls fishing for crits, so is not the worst jack in the world to marshall. At 8pts though, you might as well just bring a unit of Bog Trogs or almost an another Posse.
  • Bucaneer - cheap and knocks things down. I love knocking things down. With Hog Wild, you can boost the hit, knock your DEF ~15 target down, then walk backwards 6" to contest a zone or be generally annoying. Or don't boost the hit roll and then run away. Also brings a lot of damage boxes for 3 pts at DEF 13 ARM 15 and it has reach (with a crappy POW but still)!. Probably the best choice at 5pts all up.
  • Mariner - Has a long range gun, which is really nice for Blindwater. However that gun would be a hell of a lot nicer with two focus on it. It is amphibious so benefits from Swamp Pits and all that. Lash isn't that big a benefit since getting knocked down and shot is not something I am ever worried about.
  • Rover - Raluk's favourite warjack according to his little fluff blurb, and not altogether bad. If the gun was ROF:2, it'd have some cool interactions with Hog Wild but alas it is not. It is a tanky heavy that dies easier than unit of Gators and hits as hard as a Wrastler but doesn't have fury or a sweet animus.

All up - maybe a Bucaneer to help me deal with heavies I can't effectively kill and to help with scenarios. I would have really liked this combo before Colossals came out, when dealing with ARM required tactics and power attacks and not just cycling Fury.
I would probably rather bring an Ironback Spitter than a marshalled Mule or a Mariner all things considered, and I think a Vanguard would go great in Pigmans but not really Gatormans.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stuff that sucks

Some models are bad - and that's ok.

That is going to be my post for the week - talking about models considered bad and my experiences with them. It's bound to offend some people, but entertain me.

First, some theory for framing perspective. Here are some reasons why models are bad:

1. Badly costed

Points cost is the single most important statistic on a model's card, especially at lower points levels, as the difference between X and X-1 can be quite significant. Lowering or increasing a model's PC can have a huge impact on whether you see them in a list or not, or if you see 8 or 1. Cryx Stalkers, for example, were PC:3 in the Mk2 Field Test, and Cryx players were spamming those things like crazy. Get a single Stalker with 3 focus on the enemy caster and that was probably game over. Fortunately they were increased to PC: 4 at release and their value relative to Bane and Satyxis swarms decreased and we thankfully don't have to play against 6 Stalkers anymore.
On the flip side, you have Trenchers, where a full unit with all the UAs and support modules costs about 4.2 million points, and is still not as good as the Winterguard Deathstar, buffs or not.

2. Opportunity Cost

A different way to look at the cost issue. Sometime there are just models available to you that do practically the same thing at better value, or bring additional options to the table. Often this will be a merc model, but sometimes within the same faction. That is like the ultimate kick in the nuts.

3. Very situational

Some models have abilities that are extremely dependent on matchup, and their effectiveness is thus dependent on your opponent's list. This is not really a cool place to be, unless you know exactly what you're going to be playing against every time
Take Strakhov for example, who is pretty good against Legion shooty lists because he has Occultation and he is immune to fire. Meaning that Legion has no way to shoot him to death outside Bolt Throwers. And his stuff is really really fast. Sometimes abilities that are fundamental to a model's effectiveness but only work on living models, or warbeasts. As you would expect, these models are usually noticeably less sweet when their preferred targets are not around. This point of course bleeds into....

4. The Meta

What you play against has a large impact on the value of your models. If you expect to play against a lot of heavy armor, as has been the case in a Colossals meta, then armor crackers like heavies and weapon masters are valuable. If you expect to face lots of troops, then models that can generate multiple attacks in a turn and AoEs and sprays are valuable.If you expect lots of tough, anti-healing and Take Down is good. If you expect incorporeal, then magic weapons become more valuable, etc. etc. etc.
Points size is also a factor, as are tournament formats. Character restrictions have made a big difference in model viability by removing the option to take more powerful character choices in every list. Playing scenario vs not playing for scenario makes a huge difference to the power of some models. Some casters and models are much

5. Clunky design

Some models actually do fine in games purely on a capability perspective, but are annoying to play or get to "work" for many people. Sometimes there are too many hoops to jump through, sometimes they Skornergize* with your models, sometimes they just try to do lots of things and suck at them all. Either way, they still suck. In any case, they are just not really enjoyable to use in a real game but usually look sweet in theorymachine.

6. Designed for that annoying tart that wants to make everything work all the time

You know those guys that want everything to work all the time? Yeah. They are the guys that post threads on the PP boards every few weeks about how they've figured out Assault Kommandos and Tharn Ravagers. I admit I am guilty of this type of behavior at times. But I've come around to the fact that some stuff just sucks.... and that's ok. Pleasure from pain. If you still enjoy putting your balls in a vice and spinning the handle at varying speeds in random directions in the hope that you'll find some kind of personal satisfaction or enlightenment, you go ahead and give yourself blue balls.

7. Light artillery

Pretty much all light artillery sucks, except perhaps the Mortar crew. Nobody really knows why, but my theory is that because they can't move and shoot, they lose a lot of tactical depth and become predictable. If you look at the stats of most light artillery models, they are pretty decent and usually straight up better than a ranged solo at the same cost. However they only do one thing, which is shoot AoEs or potentially high-ish POW attacks at highly predictable ranges. They also usually can't boost on top of that, which makes you hate them more and just spend your points on super expensive warjacks with the same gun instead (which are probably worse).

Much like Gargantuans, I can't complain that Gators don't have any light artillery.

8.  Design decisions that err on the side of caution

I think several members of the Warmachine design team engaged in Opus Dei-type self-flagellation as the result of Mk1 brokenness. It is quite clear these days that whenever given they choice, they will choose to make a model tamer and lower on the power curve rather than risk a model winning the majority of tournaments. That would be really horrible. In my opinion, this will often lead to some changes late in the design process that don't get playtested as thoroughly as they should and have a bigger impact on a model's viability than expected.

I'm sure everyone prefers this state of affairs to Mk1 "everything is broken" balance. It is funny how often I hear that MkII is 'perfectly balanced' after hearing the same thing about MK1 for years. PP do a great job of keeping the game balanced, but anyone who has played Warmachine for a few years is aware that balance issues will almost always be present to varying degrees. You can't compare an eLich to a Venethrax, or McThralls to Drudges. There is always room for improvement, not only in terms of nerfs, but also of buffs.


Here is a small, non-exhaustive selection of models that are usually held up as bad/ crap:


  • Trenchers - They cost too damn much. They can do lots of stuff (not particularly well), but 1pt per guy is a hefty cost, especially when you throw in all the additional stuff. They already have an amazing UA which doesn't fix their standing - I think it's just a matter of reexamining the cost decisions on Cygnar units (who are obviously costed with great shooting buffs in mind). Long Gunners are arguably in the same boat but benefit hugely from Snipe.
  • Stormblades - Cost too much for SPD 5, totally average defensive stats, and no reach. Sure, they can hit hard and have guns and tons of gizmos, but what's the point when you can't even do the basics? Again, already have a UA and WA, so I'm thinking either Stryker3 gets Lightning Tendrils AND Deflection/Deceleration or these guys will be coated in a thick coat of grey dust by the time Mk2 Remix hits.


  • Venethrax - First of all, he isn't one of the other Cryx casters. Second, he is very skewed towards livings models. Third, his feat ranges from random as hell, to self-defeating, to not doing much at all. It's cute. Unlife in the Cryxian Empire has not been kind to Skeletor.
  • Drudges - These are just straight up worse than McThralls for more points. Or worse than any unit in Cryx for any points. And 90% of their effectiveness is tied to one pretty easy to kill model. Like... what? Redesign these so they have flexible weapon modes like CoC infantry and don't hold onto the Mind Slaver for dear life and we might see them on the table.... one day.
  • Cryx Heavies - Two problems with Cryx heavies, who for the most part are actually pretty good: One, they are squishy as all hell and have no repair option that can really keep up with them at full speed so losing 3 systems to a boosted Reckoner shot makes you want to just play more Banes instead. Two, you could just take Banes/ Satyxis/ McThralls, who hit equally hard, put out more attacks and need less focus to do it. Opportunity cost at work here.
    Deathjack ADs, has armour and heals itself, so he is immune to criticism and costs a ton.


It's hard to find bad things in Protectorate,because the whole faction is based around jerking itself off so everyone feels good and high-fives each other. I mean, Amon is considered bad in that faction, since he has some incentive to not stay 6 miles back.
  • Deliverers - Perfectly fine unit. However, nobody takes them because they take soooooooo long to resolve at full efficiency, and don't get all the buffs a Redeemer does. They attempted to fix them in Mk2 by giving them a huge 5" AoE CRA so they can activate faster, but even then Redeemers are better and die slower.
  • Paladin? - What happened here? I never see these anymore. I guess they aren't as tough as Seneschals, and only become really great with Vilmon, who people don't take anymore for some reason. Too many magic weapons in the meta I guess.


  • Zerkova - universally acknowledged as the worst caster in Khador for many reasons. First she is squishy and her defensive tech is bad. Second, she has every incentive to move upfield since her main influence on the game is through offensive spells and her pDenny-style feat. The most effective way to play her would be to take some shield guards (Bokurs), upkeep her spells, feat and then camp focus all the time and hope to live. That is even more boring than eKreoss. Third, no real game plan - everything is reactionary or denial, and not that great at it.
  • Decimator- requires wayyyyyy too much focus to make up for his craptastic RAT. I suspect he will come back with Malakov, because that Beat Back POW 15 gun combined with a POW 20 sustained attack melee weapon seems really good on a SPD 6 jack.
  • Assault Kommandos - Do like 10 things, and all of them suck. There's no getting past mediocre stats, very low POW attacks, highly situational abilities and a pretty high points cost (except giving them +3 to all stats). Remember how good Trenchers were in Mk1? So do these guys.
  • MoW Kovnik - This guy looks like serious business on paper. Problem is SPD 4 and no reach combined with no movement tricks means this guy isn't really getting to hit anything (unless you give him +3 to all stats). Second the emphasis on his jack marshall abilities, in a faction where jacks are focus-hungry, get great battlegroup buffs and have some very impressive buffable troops. And now have Malakov.
The poster boys for failure in JS Land


  • pMagnus - great spell list, but no feat. Not having a feat kinda sucks. Imagine how much people would hate pStryker if he didn't have a feat - that's pMagnus. It's not really a matter of terrible as much as lame.
  • Devil Dogs - too many hoops to jump through, and other people just do what they do better and more reliably. Charge maybe 7 around a warjack if graced by the favor of God himself, hit maybe the 3rd or 4th net, then get three POW 10 weapon master attacks. Then die. Short ranged guns and no way to deliver.... just legitimately bad.
  • Blythe and Bull - WTF. It's like Ayanna & Holt that don't have Harm or Magic Weapons or Stealth and only one big meaty gun. Most obvious IKRPG conversion ever.
  • Avalancher - Those Rhulics and their power pieces. I think they should get their own faction. Then Minions won't be the worst faction in the game anymore. This jack just seems like an even shittier version of the Destroyer, which is already a pretty shitty jack. Am I missing something?


  • Garryth - melee assassination casters don't tend to do too well in the current meta. Garryth would be great if he could keep his army standing long enough for him to get to the enemy caster, but Ret isn't built that way. And his feat being skewed so hard towards Warmachine sucks for him.
  • Gorgon - The  Force Lock ability seems really strong. However it is tied to both a squishy warjack with rather crap combat capabilities and a squishy Generator node. It might cause slight activation issues for your opponent, but if that's what you're going for you might as well play this next guy....
  • Nayl - Have no idea why people don't play him. As a Hordes player, I find him annoying as hell. Sure, he can screw you over if you place your caster nearby and he gets thrown over there. OR he can get in the middle of the opposing army and take P+S 13 free strikes on everyone since he is way too annoying to deal with and destroys your opponent's time. Guess two points is a lot to give up to completely mess up your opponent's plans for a turn.
Apparently if I ever get a tattoo, it has to be this.


  • Gunnbjorn - he has a sweet gun, pretty good spells but again, no feat. Or a feat that doesn't work for his spell list, since it seems only good for protecting a rampaging horde of rushing trolls on the advance, which will be way ahead of him. Trolls usually have underwhelming spells and feats on paper, but this guy also has them on the table!
  • Winter Troll - I haven't had the pleasure to see why this guy sucks on the table. If the animus was RNG: Self, I would totally understand but at RNG 6 it might see some use. Maybe it's the RAT 4 on the spray. Maybe it's the pillow fists when you could be taking some baller Troll Hero or a Pyre Troll that brings +2 damage to said Troll Hero.
  • Mountain King- He might be awesome if he came out 2 years ago when people weren't designing lists to 1-round much heavier targets. Alas, people are doing just that. He's also MAT 5 for no reason at all. WHY MAT 5?!?!
  • Sluggers - So their stats suck more than the average Troll, for some reason. And if they move and shoot, they really suck. If they stand still and shoot, they get 5d3 RAT 7 POW 13 shots off, which is pretty good with Snipe. But then they are 5/8 for 3/5 guys with 5 boxes each. Why they have boxes, nobody knows. More muscle mass from lifting I guess. But we do know this is the best example of Snipe tax known to man.


  • Ravagers - It's because they die. Like, really easily. If everyone played in heavily forested terrain all the time, they would probably be legit, but such a thing is rare.
  • Sentry Stones - This thing was ridiculously overpowered in Mk1 for doing almost the same thing. Then Mk2 happened and I have not seen one since. Is it the 3pts? The short 6" CMD range? The reliance on enemy warbeasts to do it's thing? I really don't know.


  • Rhyas - Again, a melee assassination caster that doesn't seem to get love. How odd. I think this is the case of a caster that doesn't do much. She hides in the back, casts Dash and upkeeps two spells. If you play against Hordes you might risk her to kill a warbeast and steal its fury and run away. Her feat is good but kinda reliant on your opponents list and positioning. Also no pathfinder is stupid.
  • Grotesques - Not only are they uglier than my ass, they are potentially the least exciting unit I have ever seen. Mediocre to poor stats all around, BUT they can fly, are fearless and gang. That sure makes up for that single MAT 5 POW 10 attack. If they were 3/5, they might see some play. Might.


A fall from grace that would make Satan jealous.
  • eMorghoul - A melee assassination caster! Yep, and eMorghoul also sucks to play. In Mk1, he was probably amongst the most OP casters in the game since he was not only an assassin machine with good support spells (same as now), but his feat Blinded your opponent's entire army. That was pretty OP. Anyway, they dicked around with him in the Play Test for several editions until they slapped his current lame-ass boring feat on him in the last release and left it at that, together with passive stealth. Two weeks more/less of playtesting would have made a world of difference.
  • Savage - I don't know why I don't see more of these. I submitted so many feedback forms that the animus should cost 1. Now it costs 1 and nobody takes them. FML. More evidence nobody really likes melee lights unless they are spammable, and Savages are not spammable at 5pts. dat animus though...
  • Cannoneer - Warbeasts with big AoE guns are amazing since you can boost pretty much everything you need at will. The reason this guy is left on the shelf however is firstly because his animus does nothing. It did nothing in Mk1 and doesn't do much now - the range is too short, and the cost is too high for a warlock relative to two more transfers. Secondly, he is very average in melee and Skorne doesn't stand for that jazz.
  • Siege Animantrax - This thing not only sucks on the table, but also sucks on paper. I would have loved to see this thing in playtest, it must have been broken as balls before those last minute tweaks.


  • Arkadius - People want to cast Crippling Grasp - they miss, they die. On the flipside, pig beasts are pretty crap so his entire shtick is consequentially equally crap. Better pig beasts please.
  • Calaban - I like my warlock to do things. If I wanted to just cast one spell, upkeep things and hope like hell I don't die, I'd have played PoM. If Grave Door didn't require 14 hoops to jump through as well as a full tax audit and vetting process, then maybe he might be cool had Rask never come out.
  • Brigands - People take these with Carver. They don't take them otherwise. Because giving them CRA and Fearless is a thing when they have otherwise poor stats.
  • Boneswarms - I have written on Boneswarms before. They could have three different roles, yet they don't do any of them well. They do the tanky role in Midas' theme list pretty well. Sucks for you, Gator players.

Feel free to share your thoughts. Remember that, at least in this context, 'good' and 'bad' are entirely relative, so it makes sense for every eLich,  Molik, or Satyxis unit, we have an eMorghoul, Avalancher or Grotesques.

*Skornergy, for you young ones, is a term coined by the podcast Focus and Fury to describe the Skorne list design process during the Hordes Playtest. It is essentially synergy that looks amazing but doesn't actually work, or screws itself over at some stage in the process. Lots of Skorne warlocks had this feature.

Friday, August 2, 2013

My first time playing with CoC

Technically, it would be my second time since I have played a couple of proxy CoC Box games. But this is my first time playing with someone else's CoC. It began badly, when in my enthusiasm to demonstrate proper dice shuffling technique, I sent plastic Syntherion flying off the table and breaking one of his little plastic arms. Boy did he fly. I broke that CoC good. It was not easy to fix. I don't like plastic CoCs.

Axis, the Harmonic Enforcer (*6pts)
* Corollary (3pts)  (CoC Squire)
* Diffuser (3pts)  (Hunter's Mark light)
* Galvanizer (3pts) (Repair light)
* Cipher (9pts) (Double Pistons/Gun Face)
* Inverter (8pts) (KD Hammer guy)
Obstructors (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts) (shield wall infantry with reach flails)
Optifex Directive (Leader and 2 Grunts) (2pts) (CoC Choir)
Enigma Foundry (3pts) (CoC Necrosurgeon)
Steelsoul Protector (2pts)  (Shield Guard)

+2 more points (probably some bodge servitors or Flare servitors)

Much like new Protectorate warjacks, the names of these models mean nothing for a few months and you just use descriptive names for them instead.
I played a standard 35 Barnabas list: Wrastler, Spitter, Snapper, 2 Full Posse, Totem Hunter.

Good view of hammer hands and elephant feet.

The scenario was Incursion, and the middle flag dissapeared. 

Round 1:
  • He went first and ran some stuff up and put up upkeeps.
  • I ran some stuff up and put up a Swamp Pit and Warpath.
Round 2:
  • He moved everything like 2" forward and turtled in Shield Wall since he was afraid of all the Gatormans. Razor wall was put in front of the Obstructors as a joke. Moved some jacks to contest flags.
  •  I shot a clump of Obstructors in Shield Wall with the Spitter, killing my target and triggering Warpath to move the Wrastler up (the other 5 guys I hit all died to Corrosion next turn - yay!). Barnabas moved up inside a Swamp Pit and feated, catching all the CoC except for the Cipher and Galvanizer + Protector who were on my left + right flanks respectively. The Wrastler charged the steady Inverter (taking 1pt from Razor Wall) and managing to kill it on my last damage roll needing an 11. Yay. I jammed one unit of Gators up into the Cipher/ Diffuser/ Obstructors, and the other unit sat in the middle of the table non-committedly (my only big mistake).

Round 3:
  • He shakes with Axis and holds the rest of the focus. Some Obstructors return to play thanks to the Foundry - the 1" leash on its return ability is really restricting! But at 3pts for ARM 18 and 8 boxes, repair ability, repairable and easy access to a Shield Guard, can't really complain too much. Anyway, the Obstructors do nothing, most of the army does nothing so Axis decides to take matters into his own hammers - pops his feat, casts Onslaught for the pathfinder, charges a Gator in front of Barnabas, beats it back. I wanted to counter-charge with Barnabas and place him directly behind this Gator so he could not have been moved and thus forcing Axis to spend more focus than he wanted to get to Barnabas, but -2 SPD from Axis' feat stops charging. He uses his second attack on the nearby Spitter to make his way over to Barnabas, fluffs 4 of the 6 extra attacks and leaves him at 9 boxes.
  • Spitter headbutts, Barnabas kills Axis with auto-hitting boosted POW 12s.

Postgame thoughts

In retrospect, had that second unit of Gators just run 2.1" in front of the Obstructors I would have been safe from assassination and weathered the feat turn better. -2 STR and SPD is very damaging to Gators so my retaliation would have been very poor that turn - even killing Shield Walled Obstructors would have been tough with POW 11 Gator attacks. I probably would have only just killed the Enigma Foundry with a Spitter shot and Flesh Eater, and just put Spiny Growth on everything to try and weather the next round.

I also didn't have Spiny Growth on Barnabas due to Fury issues (Wrastler at 4, Spitter at 1) but probably should have put it up and let the Wrastler frenzy as he wasn't going to do much under Axis' feat anyway. Assassination would have been even more unlikely in that instance. The Swamp Pit also helped by protecting Barnabas from those Flare guns.
Scenario was a non-issue during the game since he skillfully placed warjacks with Countercharge 3.9" away from each flag, warjacks that were tough enough to take a couple of Gator hits without too much fuss.

The lack of living models in CoC really sucks for our threat ranges and many living-only abilities, and the armor stacking potential is a worry. Axis in particular will become quite nasty as more CoC models are released because his feat really shuts down Gator lists for a turn, he is capable of dishing out significant damage in a melee grind situation, and he has access to a ridiculous number of push effects to set up almost any charge lane he needs.
My first impression is that it seems a bit like a Skorne matchup, which means Rask will again prove to be the best all-around choice. But they are pretty fun to play with and against (at least until Lucant comes out, that guys is going to give everyone fits).