Monday, November 17, 2014

Post 100 - Acknowledging our "special" cousins


To celebrate this monumentous occassion, I thought I should do an utterly biased/brutally honest review of our sister sub-faction, the Thornfall, in the style of this grading article. Please don't expect anything of serious value :)


Pigs have been pretty terrible thus far. I would argue they are the worst "faction" in Warmahordes. This is mostly because Pigs (like Gators) are super restricted, but unlike Gators don't have access to Posse. You can take Rhulic/Pirates casters and jacks in Highborn/4-Star with good troops/solos.
Pigs beasts are really bad for their cost, their infantry options are limited and in no way compare to Gatorman Posse as a faction backbone, they lack a strong sense of in-game faction identity and they are pretty much worse or equal to Gators in 95% of matchups.

Recently however, they got a few good releases that could improve to their viability as a faction: the Arkadius theme, Maximus, the Efaarit and the Meat Thresher. If things keep going like this, they might catch up to Gators within 2 releases cycles (circa 2017!)

Pigs' greatest strength at the moment is that nobody expects them. And Carver's massive balls.


Lord Carver - 9
Potentially one of the best warlocks in the game. Incredible spell list, very solid feat (damage boost + infantry shred in one package?), very survivable and good personal damage output.  He brings much destruction - one could argue the most destruction, in very large quantities. His biggest weakness, is of course being in Pigs, which keeps him chained down at a solid 9.
He is one of the best Who's the Boss casters out there, where he gets bumped up to a hard, highly overpowered 10 with almost any balanced Hordes list. At my last Who's the Boss tournament, I managed to get a free pick and chose Karchev because everyone always thinks Unearthly Rage with beasts is totally insane. It is indeed nuts, however the downside is you have Karchev as your caster (who sucks more than ever in a meta where lists have to deal with Colossals). Next time, I will not hesitate to take Carver, a man's pigman.
He even has his own tax, applied to Pig heavies and lights - the Carver tax. Ruthless imperialism has its downsides.

Arkadius - 8
A really good beast spamming warlock who finally got his time in the sun with a tier list that makes up for his garbage warbeasts by reducing their PC by 2 across the board AND giving him access to an even better version of one of the game's best light warbeasts.

PP: Pls buy plastic War Hogs, we will be nice from now on :(

Arkadius makes warbeasts grind hard and often. He also happens to have one of the most overpowered spells in the game (Crippling Grasp), which has made people believe he sucks because he doesn't have an arc node, rather than because his beasts are garbage.
Solution? The Ark's Ark, the best thing Pigs have received since Carver. The good thing about the list is that it specifically names out the 3 current Pig beasts for the discount (allowing for new, less garbage pig beasts in the future) and still takes a lot of practice to use effectively due to his very chaotic, frenzy-heavy playstyle.

Midas - 6
Midas does some cool stuff and has very solid spells. His tier is also sweet in that it gives you good Boneswarms and most of a heavy warbeast for basically nothing (at least pre-Efaarit and Meat Thresher).
His downfall (other than being in Pigs) is that he is skewed towards Hordes matchups due to his anti-beast abilities, and has no defensive tech to speak of yet needs to get up in the fray to have an impact (ie. mostly casting Calamity, Curse and using his feat). Not to mention that he wants to spend a lot of fury to cast his sweet spells in order to carry his army.
If the Bone Tokens gave him some defensive tech (ie. Ancient Shroud effect per Bone Token), he might be Carver-levels of legit since his spell list really is that good and he can grind pretty effectively (mass RFP not withstanding).

Sturm & Drang - 3
I love the design on this guy. He looks so fun. But.... he  actually kinda sucks to play and feels incredibly limped dick - again mostly because of his crappy beasts.
Sturm can do cool stuff with TK (one of the best spells in the game), his neat spray and his defensive spells. Drang brings really good bonuses to melee warbeasts.
But they are both polishing turds - badly. Sturm has lots of defensive tech, but none of it really stands out as serious playmakers with his current model pool. Drang only has access to craptacular heavies that are not even a quarter as good as Mulg. Not to mention they are on a medium base in a primarily small-based faction with no worthwhile anti-shooting tech and are SPD 5. WHY SPD 5? If they had SPD 7 with Ride-By, they could do a lot more stuff and not need to worry about constant death.

Helga - 7?
I haven't seen Helga played much yet. I think she seems at least as good as Midas and her feat can be really devastating, especially against medium-base spam like Gators. Like most Pig casters, her spell list is incredibly solid. Dash, Defender's Ward, Distraction are easily top tier spells, and Cyclone + Muzzle are pretty close too. Her passive beast bonus is also really legit (especially since she also benefits).
The main issue I see is not being able to speed up beasts, or buff the damage of her troops. Again, another story of a good caster with a good feat and excellent spells, but is probably carrying too much.


War Hog - 3
The War Hog is across the board a crappy heavy. Its one redeeming feature is being able to hit somewhat hard, and a crit KD initial attack. Apart from that it is slow, costly, not that survivable, has a bad animus and is not generally fury efficient. Pigs make do with what they have, and this subpar beast is it. You take it because you have to.
Bebop also does not understand why War Hogs are so bad.
Road Hog - 5
The Road Hog is also pretty lame. It is expensive, has bad base stats, and hits like a wet noodle. However it does have a somewhat useful animus, a speed buff, a pretty decent ranged weapon with auto-fire, and can offer an element of surprise - none of which the War Hog has. I think at a point less, it would be solid, but 9pts for a heavy with no real damage output is hard to stomach.

Gun Boar - 5
Useless animus, bad stats... the pig story. However it gets at least mediocre because it can two-handed throw and it has quite good defensive stats for a light. Also, has a gun.

Razor Boar -7
Pigs' best beast IMO. The animus costing 2 makes it basically blank which frustrates some people, but if you think of it as a really tanky 2pt solo that benefits from battlegroup buffs and doesn't really care about frenzying, then it's pretty legit.

Midas Boneswarms - 7
Boneswarms how they should be - starting with 3 tokens! Makes it a very tanky light, well worth the cost. The animus is also somewhat useful to Midas in cornercase situations since he doesn't have unrestricted access to Spiny Growth like the Gator Master Race.

Arkadius' Goraxes - 10
Holy shit, these are totally insane. Goraxes by themselves are probably 8s, and these have Shield Guard as well (big deal for Arkadius), and the animus does HUGE amounts of work since the downside (auto frenzy) is really an upside in Pigs. Also you can autoplink them in the ass with Arkadius for a free charge before buffing them up to the gills and sending them to one-round a heavy twice their cost.
And the best part is these Goraxes alone were not considered enough to make up for the pig heavies and light, you also have to include them in a tier with -2PC on your other warbeasts and some aggro deployment bonuses.


Brigands - 4
Mediocre in a nutshell. Have a lot of potential and Hog Wild is a pretty good rule, but bad base stats, pretty high cost, and no really defined role in Farrow (are they tarpits? counter-chargers? how do they trade?, etc) makes them not so great. They are quite a bit better with Carver due to CRA increasing their flexibility a lot.

Slaughterhousers - 6
I quite like these. Bring anti-tough/RFP and a good counter charging toolset. However they don't have access to a great tarpit in Pigs, so don't get to shine as much as they would behind a row of Gators in Skorne.... other most other factions for that matter.

Bone Grinders -7
Sweet unit. Very cheap way to get an accurate magical missile, save animi after beasts die (would be excellent in Gators), boost caster spell range - solid, no real downside other than horrible stats, but for that cost, who cares. They make Calaban less terrible too :)

Razorback Crew - 5
Phew, I almost forgot about these. I graded them very average because it kinda depends on the terrain and the rest of your list. It is a RNG 14, POW 15 AoE3 gun which more than likely gets to AD due to the Thornfall Pact. That's not too terrible for 3pts if you get to make at least 2 shots with it, which you are likely to do if terrain is in your favour. If you don't, then it's not really worth it. Still one of the better artillery models when it gets to AD. Without AD, forget about it.


Gudrun - 5
This guy would be really sweet if he had Perfect Balance or some other ability that lets him stand up for free so he could deliver himself effectively after getting shot or whatever. I am guessing he will also be pretty legit with Helga + Defender's Ward as a Turn 1/2 tarpit. Aside from that, I have never seen him really pull his weight despite his pretty solid base stats - when he dies, he just gets killed again.

Maximus - 7
I like this guy a lot, and it mostly revolves around him being like Gudrun, but better, for a point less. Basically just the unmounted version of Fenris, but trading a little bit of damage output for survivability and Pathfinder charge (excellent way to protect himself on the advance). Great raw combat solo.

Efaarit - 8
I am really tempted to give these a 9 because they are so good - basically a free, accurate, no consequence ARM piercing every turn on a really fast pathfinder solo. However, I will stick with an 8 because Pigs don't really have much good ranged support to really push them over the top.

Saxon - 8
Saxon would be worth his 2pts without the ability to give something pathfinder. Great stats, good survivability, and some good combat potential. But on top of that, he can also douche warbeasts and give pathfinder to your Slaughterhousers (one of their biggest drawbacks as counter chargers). I am probably slightly biased about how sweet he is, because he is the manliest man on Immoren. Also, his book art makes him look a lot like our favourite Slovenian Press Ganger :)

Alten - 6
It's hard to say really bad things about a RAT 8 RNG 14 hand cannon shot with AD, Camouflage and Swift Hunter. And he gets some free damage against beasts on top of it. Basically a better Widowmaker Marksman (the archetypal mediocre ranged 2pt solo in my book), minus the Stealth.

Pendrake - 5
Ha, I didn't even grade this guy in Gators (would be a 6). Usually Pigs will want Saxon over this guy (as they are mutually exclusive), but Beast Lore can do some cool stuff for your Slaughterhousers, which means they can shred high DEF warbeasts. Aside from that, meh. In Gators he is a bit more valuable because guns are so rare, which isn't really a Pig problem.

Targ - 4
 The only Farrow solo, and he wears their trademark crappiness with pride. He can heal, he can Anxilliary Attack. Wow. Again, polishing turds. Herding does help with control area, but that isn't a problem I've seen Pigs have. Since his special abilities only work on Pig beasts, I assume he was supposed to be a tag-along for Brine in other factions, while also giving those other factions Herding?

Rorsh & Brine-5?
You only hear about them in super janky theorymachine because they are hypothetically able to go super fast. Can do cool stuff but I literally cannot remember a time I have seen them played in Mk2 :(

Raluk Moorclaw also goes here, but I will continue to pretend he doesn't exist. Hypothetically best in a Sturm&Drang list with a marshalled Vanguard so he can repair your BE and Shield Guard for your caster.

Battle Engine

Meat Thresher - 7
I like it. It's not the Gator BE but it's still one of the better battle engines in the game. Again, a good counter charging model in Pigs with no good tar pit in front of it. It is DEADLY in melee with Trash and auto-KD - it basically one-shots Gatormans reliably, which is scary. Not to mention boosted hit rolls against small bases. Bulldoze is also one of the best abilities in the game, and having it on a huge base is really good. It doesn't quite make up for the lack of reach, but it comes close in a lot of situations. The gun is also pretty decent, despite the targeting restrictions and low RAT.

Conclusion & Discussion:

Can you win games with Pigs? Absolutely. I'd go so far as to say that if you are a player with sound fundamentals, you can even win the majority of your games with Pigs in a casual setting. However, if you were put in a situation where there was big money on the outcome of a game (ie. a serious competitive situation), Pigs are very likely the very last lists you would reach for, regardless of familiarity.

As you can see, Pigs do have access to some good models, especially in the warcaster and solo department. Where they fall down is crappy warbeasts, lack of consistent engagers and lack of an effective tarpit. The best tarpit they have at present is a swarm of Razor Boars, which is just a tad expensive, and small bases without reach don't take up enough of the board to really jam up. It seems to me that if the beasts were cheaper on the whole, they could be used as good frontline models..... and lo and behold, the Ark tier (one of the two good Pig lists). I guess this is also part of what makes Carver so good (the other good Pig list) - making heavies fast and high ARM allows them to take the initial hit and/or engage.

There are many perspectives on what Pigs as a "faction" are supposed to be, since PP has certainly not made it obvious over the years. Many believe they are a combined arms factions - if that is the case, they are a really bad one as Cygnar and Khador both do that significantly more effectively even at only their Prime release level. By this reasoning, Pigs are then purely aesthetics.

Others, like myself, believe the primary design of Pigs is supposed to be chaos, frenzy and gambling: their warlocks are built heavily around improving warbeasts (two of which have random, self-damaging mechanics); they have no fury management to speak of (one warlock actively encourages frenzy); and their beasts are mostly crap and work best when thrown away to frenzy and hope to get lucky.
The latest wave of releases confirms this approach between:

  • Maximus (literally: a Pig Doom Reaver, just because) 
  • Meat Thresher (a crazy Mad Max contraption) 
  • Helga (slams everywhere, fat Valkyrian lady singing)
  • Arkadius tier 
Let's see if the design keeps going this way. If Pigs get a few more releases in this style, they will develop enough of an identity and tactical niche to make them a viable competitive choice over Gators in the realm of Miniondom. Right now, they still suck and are mostly just things for Carver to carry on his manly back and look neat. Sorry, Bacon lovers :)

Also, gator meat tastes better than pig meat. Sjakk matt, griser.

Extending an olive branch

In the meantime, if anyone wishes to contribute Minion-themed quality guest articles, please get in touch. I'd be happy to discuss it! I made this blog primarily as an easily accessible, semi-permanent (1) depository of Gator information for players interested in playing the faction, and I have more or less kept it up to date these past years despite lulls of interest and long periods of no gaming activity. Especially with my tournament attendance about to take a massive nose dive for the next year, and only getting one release in the next ~18 months, there won't be too much to write about.

However it'd be really nice to have a foreign and/or Farrow element to the website: either stand-alone tactics articles, fluff articles, hobby articles, you name it. So if you know your stuff and can write nicely, leave a comment or send me a PM on the PP boards (Yertle4 - the guy who only posts in sarcasm).

Article on the Sacral Vault will be posted when the model comes out (late 2015 is likely!).

Also thanks to anyone who takes the time to comment or let me know they value this site, your comments and opinions are appreciated.

(1) Unlike the PP forums, I have control of what gets posted here and can be as critical or expressive as I want :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer


Jaga-Jaga is Blindwater's 5th warlock. Her nickname is Death Charmer, which means she charms Death. That can be either really cool or really creepy, depending on how you think about it.
In any case, she is a great support warlock, featuring a good dose of Blindwater's beloved douchiness and warlock survivability, while also bringing a range of tools unavailable to other Gatorman warlocks.


Her stats are very similar to Calaban - good for a spellcaster, and about average for a Gatorman (aka. good). SPD 6 is great when almost all your other stuff is SPD 5, especially when you have a reach poison weapon (more on that later).
Her combat stats are pretty average, and her defensive stats also about average for a warlock.

Finally, she is our second Fury 7 casters! Yay! And our first +5 WB caster! Boo!


Where her bread is buttered, her cuckoo slapped, her cheese melted:

  • Deadweight - a Cost 2 POW 12 nuke with a nice added benefit that allows you to 'attach' the corpse of the model you just killed to a nearby model, forcing that model to sacrifice movement or action next turn. Nice denial, but RNG 8 and no arc nodes makes it quite situational.
  • Escort - +2" movement for your beasts and +2 ARM for your warlock? In Blindwater? Yes please.
  • Ghost Walk - Allows target model/unit to ignore free strikes and terrain for the purposes of movement. VERY good in a melee centric force (aka. Cryx), and a way to grant pathfinder to Gatormans without praying for it. Awesome since we can't take the Manliest Man on Immoren (Saxon Orrik).
  • Grave Wind - a really sweet single-target defensive buff, grants +2 DEF and Poltergeist (knockback d3" whenever you miss the target model with an attack).
  • Spellpiercer - Jaga Jaga's signature spell, this grants magical weapons and Blessed to your entire army. Yowza.


Gatorman. Warlock. That is all.

Feat - Legion of DEATH!

Enemy non-construct dudes killed in Jaga's control area become friendly zombie versions of themselves and gain Dark Shroud. Right after becoming zombies, they can make a full advance (immune to free strikes) and cannot activate but otherwise keep all their abilities. Lasts for a round after which the zombies are RFPed (unless destroyed again prior to end of round).



Certainly not a melee monster, but Jaga-Jaga can deal a good chunk of melee damage to the right targets thanks to Chain Weapon and Poison on DEATH SNAKE (1). This means she can kill most living models singlehandedly, do some nasty damage to shield-wielding beasts like the Cyclops Brute, and has some late-game assassination power if it comes down to it.
The abilities on Death Snake also combine quite well with her feat if you want to kill a bunch of shield walling guys like MoW, Cetrati, Iron Fangs or whatever - charge in and kill one to get that Dark Shroud debuff, kill a few more, and you've got yourself a nice little bubble of tough zombie infantry surrounding you.
The one weird thing with DEATH SNAKE is that it is not magical. I highly, highly doubt that it would have been broken or OP in any way had it been magical baseline rather than needing to cast Spellpiercer, but alas PP doing what PP does. Apparently magically reanimated Tazelwyrms are a mundane occurrence in the IK.

Aside from her personal damage output, granting Blessed every round to her army is a good effective damage buff against the right opponent, and there's also the Dark Shroud factor on her feat which is nice.


Despite lacking any form of anti-shooting tech, she herself is quite survivable thanks to Spiny Growth and her two defensive buffs. With Escort and a Snapper nearby, she will usually be sitting at 14/20 which is tanky as hell for a warlock (Xerxis2, as a comparison, is 15/21 vs ranged attacks with Krea animus) . If you choose to go with Grave Wind on her, you can be 16/18 instead. On top of that, she has 7 fury and will usually be camping 1-2, not to mention being pretty far back thanks to the big control area and no real incentive to get into the fight early/mid game.

Overall, not quite Rask-level of resilient, but comparable to Barnabas/Maelok.


 Despite being no slouch in melee vs the right target and being pretty tanky, her strengths definitely lie in the spell casting department and solving problems for the Gatormans. Given that she has no special abilities to speak of, all this goodness comes from her spells and feat.

She excels at 'leveling the playing field' in more ways than one:
  •  Spellpiercer is a unique spell which grants Blessed and Magical Weapons to all your dudes on all their attacks for a round. This negates enemy buff spells, which helps deal with stat skews in terms of DEF and ARM. In terms of DEF, this means Gatormans with re-rolls should be able to semi-reliably hit any unit in the game (ie. Iron Flesh Kayazy), and in terms of ARM means that even heavies stay within killable range for a few charging Gatormans and/or a heavy (especially if you throw in the Dark Shroud debuff from her feat). It's about as good as upkeep removal, since it is very resource and space efficient, but won't remove enemy upkeeps on your guys.
    Secondly, Spellpiercer also gives all your stuff Magical Weapons, which means Blood Witches, Blackbanes, Wraith Engines, Pistol Wraiths, Void Spirits and all those other ectoplasmic parasites can die in a fire. A glorious magical fire of cold steel.
  • Ghost Walk allows you to walk through any piece of terrain if needed, on top of being immune to free strikes. Now I know what a Bane Knight feels like. Feels good, man.
    Ignoring terrain is always sweet, especially walking through buildings and such, or giving effective pathfinder to a heavy. It also allows you get pathfinder while still praying for rerolls or Dirge of Mists. I also had a wonderful experience where I realized Ghost Walk entirely bypasses pBaldur's feat. It tasted like Cryx - thick, meaty, succulent carcinogenic deliciousness... I guess exactly what a KFC Double-Down "burger" tastes like.
    Being immune to free strikes in Gators is probably not as big a deal as it is in Cryx, because of the medium bases and the immense tankability meaning that if you're in combat you're likely there until something dies, but in terms of assassination potential, being able to walk a couple of Gators or a Wrastler out of combat with a heavy or weapon masters to kill a caster is pretty sweet.
She has a denial effect attached to her token magic nuke:
  • Deadweight is also a pretty cool undispellable denial effect, allowing you to hamper big scary targets like casters, heavies and Gargossals for a round.
    You will rarely be casting it because she prefers to stay back safely, but it is a great late-game spell since it can shut down that one serious remaining threat on the table when she starts to move up, if it comes to that. The RNG 8 is a bit of a downer, but if you manage to pull it off, you are probably quite safe next turn.
    Plus, it's her only magical attack. POW 12 magic missile on a FURY 7 caster ain't terrible, right?
And finally she can tank up  and deliver our heavies with her two upkeeps:
  • Escort is competing with Rift to be PP's favourite MkII spell, with every second new caster having it on their spell card. The effect on this one is two-fold:
    First, it makes your beasts faster. +2" faster to be precise, which is pretty damn good. That's almost like a Boundless Charge. Wrastlers walking 7" and throwing/deathrolling and Spitters threatening 18" is also pretty sweet. Unfortunately it doesn't affect Snapjaw since it is battlegroup only, but you probably want Snapjaw with your other list anyway :)
    Secondly, it gives Jaga-Jaga +2ARM if a beast is within 3" of her. When you have Bull Snappers in your list, this is really easy to do. It also makes her effectively +4ARM with Spiny Growth, which is pretty monstrous. Throw in some concealment and you've got a 16/20 caster with transfers.
  • Grave Wind is (at the time of writing) Jaga Jaga's second unique spell. It is a single-target buff that gives +2 DEF and Poltergeist (if a model misses you with any attack, you may push it d3" directly away). This is a really good defensive buff, because it can mess with your opponent's plans pretty bad at little cost to you. Even with our low defensive stats, here is what you can do with the spell:
    - 14/21 Wrastlers with Spiny Growth. That's a 7+ to hit for even a Bronzeback Titan or Warpwolf Stalker, and if he fluffs a single attack roll, he could just get pushed out of melee range and do nothing the rest of the turn. It effectively forces a boost, which effectively boosts survivability more than 'just' +2 DEF.
    - DEF 16 Totem Hunter... who is also super mobile and can do some serious hurt with the Prey bonus and Dark Shroud.
    - DEF 16/18 Spiny Growth Jaga, and with those transfers you're going to need a lot of attacks to hit. Would be a shame if you missed an attack and got pushed just out of melee range of that Fury 7 warlock with the Poison Reach weapon, wouldn't it?
    - DEF 15 Dirged Gatorman. Have a single Gator holding a crucial spot on the table? Why not buff him up some? 15/20 Spiny Growthed Gators are no joke. It's no Iron Flesh but it's still pretty sweet.

    At worst, this spell will often force your opponent to use his upkeep removal there rather than on Escort.

Finally, her feat: Legion of DEATH! (emphasis on DEATH!)

This is a great matchup fixer vs Cryx and other hard-hitting infantry swarms, thanks primarily to its jamming potential. The dream would be to get the alpha-strike with your Gators on their front line while the feat is up, jam their second line with the feated models so they either do nothing useful or die to free strikes, kill a heavy with your heavy thanks to the Dark Shroud debuff, and then clean up the rest next turn.

  • It has a freaking sweet name (comparable to the greatest spell name in Warmahordes ever, Glory of Everblight)
  • It counters infantry swarms pretty hard, especially melee infantry swarms.
  • It brings a very valuable ARM debuff to Gatormans. It is a janky way to get it, but free ARM debuffs are like gift horses.
  • It RFPs when all is said and done. This is great 98% of the time for you, and sometime very bad for your opponent.
  • The feated models keep all their abilities. This means the Blood Hag and Gallows Groves maintain their Entropic Aura (jankiest way to get anti-Tough in faction), Mage Hunter Assassins keep Weapon Master, Decapitation and Arcane Assassin on their 1/2" free strikes, Jannisa keeps Force Lock and Tough, and all those Doom Reavers keep Abomination and Reach. So many opportunities to douche people.
  • It is pretty match-up dependent, much like Calaban's feat (2) but quite unlike Rask's (alpha strike is always good), Maelok's (incorporeal and extra ARM is always good) or Barnabas' (except when you have mass anti-KD auras). The closest comparison would be Hexeris1's feat, except more emphasis on denial and board control and less on just killing stuff.
    Naturally, if you come up against some Godzilla beasts list or whatever list with next to no infantry, your feat does nothing. Yay.
  • It is janky. This is because mind control effects in Warmahordes are janky at their core - there are a ton of effects that get weird when the model's controller switches around, interactions get confusing, and also people don't usually like it if you touch their models because of the emotional investment they have in them (as a cold-hearted beast, I don't mind so much if you squeeze my lizard).
  • It only RFPs if the feated model is not killed (again) after becoming a zombie. This means notorious RFP haters eLich, eMorvahna or Goreshade2 will just focus their turn on killing all your zombies, which I guess isn't a bad thing for you either... just not the best. Against these casters however, you might just want to move your zombies as far away from them as you can to get as many RFPs as possible.

In summary, the feat has tons of potential and can win you a game (on scenario) almost by itself. However against most capable opponents who know how to stagger unit formation, position well and know to drop more balanced lists against her, you will probably get average disruptive effect out of it, make life a little difficult for your opponent and probably have less overall impact that Maelok's feat. If it granted guaranteed RFP I think it would be quite a bit more generally effective without necessarily being more powerful.

She stands a full head taller than Barnabas.

Playstyle + Tactica

List Composition

Posse. Lots of them, likely three full units but at least two. This is because the matchups in which you ideally drop Jaga Jaga will be infantry heavy, not too many guns, and low to mid ARM, and you will drop Rask against everything else (or Maelok/Barnabas). And as we know, Posse are freaking amazing in those conditions.
For warbeasts, Spitters are really good, as they benefit largely from Escort, and also Dark Shroud - even if you're shooting into combat, a boosted POW 16 deals some sweet damage. As always, they suck badly in melee but the gun pulls its weight in helping those 15 Gatormans do what they do.

Wrastlers are neat as well, also as a target for Grave Wind. They also remain our heaviest hitter, and with Dark Shroud and favourable melee attack rolls should be able to reliably kill any other heavy short of an Imperatus or Tiberion. Thankfully in the matchups in which you drop Jaga-Jaga, those things will not be as common (the worst is likely to be something ARM 19/20 like Ghetorix or a Deathjack). I find being able to walk 7" with Escort is also a sweet spot for the Wrastler to maximize his damage / power attack potential. Since her assassination potential is pretty crap, scenario/attrition play is the name of the game and power attacks help out here immensely.

Swamp Horrors bring some natural shooting protection and are pretty decent against infantry-heavy matchups when given a speed buff. Generally solid, but otherwise probably has the least synergy with Jaga-Jaga compared to our other casters.

Bull Snappers are a must, if only to just give you access to Spiny Growth. They are also pretty good at triggering the +2 ARM of Escort since they usually hang around your caster anyway. DEF14/ARM20 caster is pretty good. Also DEF14/ARM21 Wrastlers.
Also with Escort they will passively charge 13" for free against living warrior models. To put that in perspective, that is almost Jaga-Jaga's control area. The Snapper can just hang out near Jaga-Jaga, drinking tea and talking golf and giving her +2/4 ARM, and then spot out some annoying OP 2pt solo miles out and torpedo sink it.

In terms of solos, you are more or less in the same boat as with other casters. Witch Doctors are very useful against Cryx specifically and with multiple Posse in general, Croak and Totem Hunters are good at clearing lanes and countercharging, Pendrake helps against Hordes and to KD heavies, etc. etc.
The one point of difference in choosing solos is that Grave Wind is a pretty useful on a higher DEF solo like Pendrake or the Totem Hunter. Pendrake can jam beasts like a boss at DEF 20 + pushback, and a DEF 16 Totem Hunter with reach can do a good job tying up flanking infantry.

In terms of battle engines, the Sacral Vault is probably an ok choice. And by ok, I mean really good.


In terms of playstyle, I would describe it as "Fundamentally Gatorman".
  • Barnabas would be "Denial Gatormans" between his survivability, board control and attrition. 
  • Rask would be "Assault Gatormans" with his highly aggressive, alpha striking assault style. 
  • Maelok would be "Gator Harder" with his recursive tanky undead Posse spam. 
  • Calaban would be "Cocoa Butter Gatormans", "Gator-Aid" or whatever sounds cute.
Jaga herself likes to play like most Warmachine power casters - find some terrain and spend the whole game near it while casting your one OP spell, throwing out a few buffs where needed and upkeeping things. If things get a little uncomfortable, she can deal a good amount of damage against living targets thanks to DEATH SNAKE and Deadweight for some protection.
She doesn't so much do anything as just allow you to do what you want to do normally with Gatormans, which is grind and trade effectively.


  • Ghost Walk - granting immunity to free strikes is a very potent mid to late game ability for Gatormans. After engagement and having killed most of your preferred targets, this allows you to ungrind a little and prioritize more important targets. It's not as good as Maelok's feat, but it's a decent part of it, every turn you need it.
  • Spellpiercer - this is basically Jaga-Jaga in a nutshell. She hard counters incorporeal spam, and shuts down defensive buffs to reinstate Gatormanic physical superiority over the other inferior humanoid races, leaving the Gatormans to manfight everyone on equal grounds, where Gatormans usually win because they are OP (except in the fluff, where an entire Posse has trouble killing a sissy like Rutger Shaw).
  • Fast(er) beasts - Barnabas can also do this via Warpath, but Warpath is nowhere as consistent or effective a speed buff as a straight-up 2" extra movement all the time. 
  • Solutions for most situations - like Calaban, Jaga-Jaga is solutions-oriented rather than problem-oriented. Unlike Calaban, she does it effectively. As a result of this, she has very few straight-up bad matchups.


  • No anti-shooting tech - this is what personally bugs me the most about her. Even Calaban has Occultation! Maelok also lacks hard anti-shooting, but at least Maelok can Revive Gators to make up for some of the lost attrition, as well as buff Posse armor on the advance. Jaga-Jaga does nothing at all in the anti-shooting department, which is my favourite aspect of Gatormans.
  • Low(er) attrition/grind potential - ok, I will grant that the feat in the right context can provide a sizable attrition swing by forcing your opponent to kill all the stuff you just killed and achieve nothing special for a turn. It is probably comparable to Rask's level of attrition between being functionally immune to non-Butcher3 assassinations, his feat and spamming Inhospitable Ground.
    But it's really hard to compete with Maelok's Feat+Revive+Death Pact and Barnabas' Iron Flesh+Feat+Terrain Creation on the attrition side of things when you're running lots of Posse. And since Rask is your first list, you will likely want the grindier second list.
  • Matchup dependant feat - this is one of those feats that either does nothing, or almost wins you the game by itself. The difference is something like 25% playskill/ 75% opponent's list, which makes her feat quite matchup dependent. At least it's a matchup Gatormans have had some trouble with in the past.
  • Feat administration time - Legion of Death becomes an increasingly bigger logistical nightmare the more effective it is. If you manage to take out 20 Banes with the feat, that's effectively adding in 20 solo activations (movement + attack) to your turn, plus having to put tokens on everything to remember what is feated and what isn't, plus making all those free strikes (enough that the clock will probably get flipped to you on each one) and remembering those models' specific rules..... In timed turns, it's probably even more time intensive than Butcher2's feat. In Deathclock, it'll be rough enough that you need to have LOTS of practice with the list against a wide range of opponents before doing it in a tournament.
  • No "surprise!" assassination factor - other than arguably Ghost Walk and the feat turn, most of what she does is predictable, which makes assassination much harder to achieve against a wary opponent. Rask can stack threat buffs on different beasts and turn anything in his list into a killing machine, Barnabas has Warpath and pop'n'drop, and Maelok is the sneakiest of all with Revive and feat shenanigans. Basically, Jaga-Jaga is a static caster, which isn't bad in itself and works well with Fury 7, but is a lot less excitingly explosive than her counterparts.

Conclusion - Calaban 2.0

Jaga-Jaga is a well designed caster that provides Gatormans with answers to one of their harder counters, and is a welcome addition to the faction.
She is optimally designed to deal with melee infantry spam, incorporeal models and moderate levels of ARM. In other words, Cryx. But her toolbox allows her to do well against everything that isn't naturally ARM heavy (ie. lists with lots of heavies and/or heavy infantry) or features a lot of high POW shooting - coincidentally, this is where Rask excels, so she theoretically pairs really well with him.

While she contests Maelok or Barnabas for that second/third list spot, she lacks the grind and assassination potential of the former and the control and defensive aspects of the latter, but still manages to hold her own thanks to an excellent spell list and matchup-fixing feat. Spellpiercer is basically a great summary of why you take her - denial of any enemy advantage allowing Gatormans to more or less beat everything in an even fight.

Is she "better" than Barnabas or Maelok? Maybe. Time will tell. My experience with her has shown that she is at least as good. She provides a more passive, solution-oriented toolbox playstyle as opposed to the aggressive, involved and problem-causing playstyle of the 3 other primary Gatorman casters. In that sense, I see her as similar to Calaban but playing her doesn't make me want to repeatedly insert metal blades into my thighs, so in my book that is a definite improvement.

I think in my lists she probably does not overtake Maelok/Barnabas for my second list, primarily because the Sacral Vault helps with mass single wound infantry.

Fun Factor:
[Figurative Opioid]------------X--------------------------------[Malaria]---[Calaban]

(1) What a name for a weapon... DEATH SNAKE. I like to pretend that she just has a huge machete and calls it Death Snake because that's a bad ass name for a knife. At worst, it is definitely the name of the snake - Death Snake, the dead reanimated non-magical snake.
(2) Even comparing Jaga's feat to Calaban's feat makes me feel dirty. I hate him so much.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Coherant rage rant/thoughs on games design and balancing

I took a look at the new Iron Gauntlet videos posted on Privateer Press' youtube channel, together with the community's approach to the 2013 and 2014 WTC (when the Americans got involved) and was quite impressed with the production value and seriousness of the whole thing. It made me wonder whether PP really do take their game seriously as a balanced, top-shelf competitive wargame that you could feasibly play for money (the ultimate test of game balance), or whether the company-sponsored big tournament hype with an international invitational event is just marketing hype.

In any case, it brings up some (more) thoughts about game balance and how different companies go about achieving and maintaining it.

The WoW (Blizzard) way - what I believe is the least fun way to balance your game by far. Did you enjoy investing 80 hours in grinding that character? Sweet, because that toon will suck in 4 months time and you'll have to do it again if you want to be competitive in PvP/not get benched in hardmode raids. Blizzard messes with abilities and stats scalings seemingly at random, sometimes fundamentally changing how a class or spec works, for no real reason other than to change things.
I guess it keeps the game fluid (when you aren't in the 1+ year lull between expansions) but it f*cking sucks to have it happen to you, and not all too fun to have it happen to friends you play with often then quit the game or get sidelined.

The DotA (Valve) way - the best way to balance your game IMO, since everyone feels powerful, and feeling powerful is good. As long as you can handle getting totally blown up when you make mistakes, of course. One of the things that was difficult for me to believe (coming from tabletop and card games) when I started following DotA is that there are very, very few "really bad" heroes (ie. the ones that only get picked once in 1000 pro games) - there are probably 2-3 out of ~105 at this stage.

Usually in DotA when something gets nerfed, they leave a hero's strengths and focus on accenting its weaknesses.
For example, Keeper of the Light (aka. Kotl) is a support hero whose is really good early on the in game due to a huge (non-scaling) damage nuke spell he has, and can give your team a big early momentum advantage by setting up ganks and pushing lanes. So much so that at some point, he became an extremely common pick in pro games.
How did Valve nerf him? They reduced his starting HP by a little bit as well as his HP gain.
Since he is easier to kill early on, it is riskier to expose yourself to cast your big light beam, so you are forced to play safer. Thus enemy heroes are less threatened and can level up relatively faster so are in less immediate danger. Boom, systematic balance - hero still feels strong and isn't such a kick in the dick to play against.

And, as the cartoon suggests, when a hero gets buffed, they just get to do what they do better and leave their weaknesses as they are.
For example, Night Stalker is a hero that sucks bad during the day but becomes a fast melee monster at night (day and night cycle every few minutes in the game, with a few abilities to manipulate them). Basically all of Night Stalker's buffs in recent memory have been on improving his strengths at night - giving him access to items that give him total map vision at night, improving his stuns and snares at night, etc. But he still does and always will suck balls during the daytime. That is what Night Stalker is about. He is not a very common pick at present but he does what he does very well and is respected for it.

The LoL (Riot) way - I haven't played LoL, but from what I have seen and heard, the game as a whole is a LOT more forgiving than WM and DotA. Riot's balancing usually focuses on taking what exactly a champion is too good at and reduce the numbers so they aren't as good at it anymore, and the reverse for buffs. Nobody really feels OP for too long, but it is balanced out because neither does your opponent, nobody gets totally stomped for slight mistakes (not by the game, anyway), your nerves are steadier, the learning curve is flatter, the bruises aren't as deep and you sleep better at night.

The PP way?

The Privateer Press way - void.

Basically, they don't do shit in terms of model balance adjustments.

To their credit, they are pretty quick to pump out an errata when there is an actual error that really obviously affects game balance in an extreme way (like the Kaelyssa theme force printed a few months ago that allowed an 18 focus Hydra to one-shot basically anything in the game on the table on Turn 2), or when there is a general rule that is written in a way that causes serious games system malfunction (like Raeks arm-locking Colossals), or when something is just written poorly (ie. Kara Sloan's feat, Explosivo, Witch Hound, Backswing).

Here is a list of actual model balance changes in Mk2 (straight buffs/nerfs), as far as I remember:
  • Gaspy2 has been nerfed 2-3 times - all changes to his feat (changing the returned models from Incorporeal to Ghostly, and then from any models to grunts only). Legit nerf. Still one of the best casters in the game.
  • Rhyas got reach. Legit buff.
  • Taryn di la Rovissi's Shadow Fire ability was changed out of nowhere so that all models ignore the affected model for LoS purposes. Legit buff, but apparently in response to a systematic issue that we haven't seen yet.
  • Armored Shell on the two Khador shell jacks allowing them to stay closed after a trample or slam. Legit buff.
  • Entropic Aura on the Blood Hag was nerfed pre model release because forum rage decreed that denying Hordes warlocks transfers just by having a model standing within 8" was OP as all hell. Legit nerf, because that was indeed total BS.
  • You could argue the change to Side Step (triggering only off enemy models) was a nerf largely aimed at Molik Karn. Not a strong argument, but it has some merit. Likewise the Blackhide Wrastler's animus was 'friendly models' before people found out you could do the Flying Pegasus trick on Molik Karn and the 18pts you spent to do so made it a pretty good deal since Molik was really stupid with Makeda2 before the Side Step change (now just plain stupid).
You could argue that that most recent change to spell/ability targeting for friendly units might be a nerf to units and a buff to warjacks, but really it's just changing one very rare, very douchy negative play experience for another, less rare, less douchy negative play experience, and will have little effect on troop swarms being more efficient than warjacks in the vast majority of instances.

So over the last 4+ years of MkII, we have had SIX instances of targeted model balancing (some of which are arguably to avoid janky rules interpretations rather than actual power shifts).

So why this apprehension to changing models on PP's parts?

It's the GW effect: back in the day, when Warhammer and 40k were taken seriously as a competitive tabletop wargames (1), many people bought GW models on account of their rules above anything else. Then a new edition would come out, and their favourite model/unit/monster/vehicle was very likely to have been nerfed into the ground or even removed entirely from the game (!!!!). Yes, GW practiced the Blizzard way of doing things, except with a much bigger price tag attached and a lot more heartache. Needless to say, if you were one of those people who played WHFB/40k primarily for the game rather than the story or sweet models, you got really pissed off that these game pieces were now invalid and you had to spend another large wad of cash, time and effort to paint new models up. Not much fun, if you didn't like that side of things (2).

Some of the people who were pissed off ended up making a game called Warmachine, and made the solemn promise that they would never do such a thing to their players. To their credit,  every Warmachine model is still tournament legal, and I respect them greatly for sticking to that. In my opinion however, there should be a middle ground between the GW Effect and game balance. We should not be afraid to change things for the better. There is a lot of design space between 'making models obsolete' and 'balance tweaking' (see: the entire MkII process as an example of the latter).

The Counterargument

The strongest argument commonly presented in PP's defense is that they balance the game with new releases - they balance list blocks  rather than models within those lists. For example, a new model might allow a new type of list which would be counter to a current power list or opening up an entirely new playstyle within a given faction - take for example the Sacral Vault being a pretty hard counter to Cryx infantry spam (thereby weakening Cryx in the greater scheme of things) or eMorvahna introducing a highly effective attrition, infantry-based playstyle to Circle (making that faction stronger in multi-list tournament play).

This is the most common perception on balancing in the game and changing the meta, and to be honest I think it can be a valid way of doing thing - if you don't mind having models you paid a decent chunk of money for and spend time assembling and painting sitting on the shelf, gathering dust on account of being underpowered or unfavored in the current meta (3).... and if you don't mind waiting a pretty damn long time for those new things to come out in the first place!
It's been working OK for PP so far, since people keep playing, and sometimes you get 'that' release that solves a problem or advances a strength and you can now make really sweet lists and that keeps you going for a few months.

Good examples of this are Butcher3, who basically just Khadors harder (and more reliably) than the other Butchers, giving Khador a strongly thematic and powerful list, or something like the Gator Battle Engine, which IMO seriously ups the Gator game against a lot of the current Cryx BS out there and is available to all Gator, Legion or Circle lists (not that the latter two needed help vs Cryx).

The biggest problem with this approach however is model bloat, and consequentially each faction maintaining its identity and uniqueness within the greater game. Every model released makes it that much harder for the next release to not invalidate something else, and is also an opportunity for something else to sit on the shelf and do nothing. Another downside is that if the new releases fail to stimulate the meta (often they do), "subpar" models remain unused and things remain stale.

Imperfect Balance

Ideally, the most balanced PvP system is the mirror match like Chess, where every player has exactly the same options available to them, and the only difference is really who gets first turn.

Failing that, the best system is a 100% open model pool, where anyone can use anything and has relatively easy access to everything (like the more popular MOBAs, or arguably Fantasy Flight's Living Card Game model). This results in what is currently referred to as 'imperfect balance'.

However, given the army/faction system deeply embedded in the game system of Warmachine, that is not and likely will never be a possibility in Warmahordes, so you have a "packaged" version of imperfect balance instead, where the "best" things at any given time are a group of models (lists) rather than single things - except one where you don't have the benefit of regular patches (ala. PC games) or cycles (ala. Magic the Gathering) to switch the balance around when the meta start solidifying. As a result, you have more or less the same approximate lists on top year in, year out, with boredom and the occasional new super-powered piece as the primary meta shift engine.

The next best thing for Warmahordes is thus to have multiple balanced model pools ("factions"), which are not only balanced against each other for competitive reasons but balanced within themselves for "metagaming" reasons (ie. having fun with building interesting lists).This is hard, and requires A LOT of playtesting over a long period of time to get right, which means it requires a lot of small changes and tweaks over the same period of time. I think this is where PP's "no changes - ever (with a few exceptions)" approach to model balance hurts the metagame.

I've been of the opinion that annual/semiannual "balance" patches MOBA-style would do wonders for the game and meta. The current release cycle is a new book per game every ~16 months or so (4). So having one balance patch in between each release would be huge to keep things fresh. Each patch could have ~2 or so changes per faction and/or some larger systematic changes, together with a set of NQ/War Room cards with the changes to model. It would stimulate the meta and sales quite a bit, and would be a good justification for smaller number of releases by adding new viability to models that either were underpowered during playtesting, or have been excluded from the meta for a long time. They already release errata at this rate, so the timing can't be better!

Some arguments against this -
1) I believe the game is perfectly balanced as is! Yay butterflies and unicorns! (which I would argue is incorrect since perfect balance is never possible in an imperfect balance asymmetrical system. That's kinda the point, and imperfect balance systems are kept balanced and alive in the long term through continuous subtle balance changes which trigger meta opinion shifts).
2) Changes are confusing, the cards I have will be inaccurate. (we are far past this point in MK2 already with all the existing errata. Implementation is not difficult. With War Room and the internet, they have the infrastructure to do it easily so that shouldn't be any bigger a deal than 2 erratas a year.)
3) I believe that PP will mess up the game, I'd rather the devil I know. (even I don't believe they would screw it up given the huge amount of playtest data currently available these days. Lich2 nerfs have been very reasonable so far, for example. And besides, if they destroy the game, you can always just go play something else, or make your own tournament system like Hacksaw did before he started officially contracting for PP!)

The only reason I can think why it is not happening is that PP is terrified of the backlash from changing things people have already "paid for". Nerds get overly defensive about stuff like that. As far as I am concerned, as long as they do not delete models from the game GW-style, they aren't breaking any promises.

TL;DR: In an imperfect balance system, regular small changes must take place in order to maintain interest and actively rotate the meta. New releases are one way to do this, but each game only gets an expansion once every 18 months. In between, PP should make non-release changes in the form of errata/rules changes/balance changes and continuously strive for that unachievable perfection. The journey matters more than the destination.

P.S. - Jaga-Jaga article coming up in a week or so. I've played a bunch of games with her, just waiting for my model to arrive and get painted.


(1)  Mostly out of lack of alternatives, and because they had the largest player base of any board game outside the most competitive, strategically-intensive and balanced tabletop wargame of all time: chess.

(2) Much like a lot of people these days don't like spending hours painting models but are pushed to do so by 'fully-painted only' events! But that's another topic for another rant I will probably not write. 

(3) Keeping in mind that the 'meta' in Warmachine changes really damn slow, like 8-18months type slow.  

(4) Gargantuans came out March 2013, Exigence October 2014.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Minions 2.0 - Episode 2: The Empire Strikes Back

It seems Exigence has turned my Warmachine life upside down - Pigs actually got good models instead of being a joke for the 3rd time in a row, Troll players are somewhat happy with their releases, Legion not so much and I actually feel like writing things in this blog (a feeling that will surely pass once I hit 100 posts :P)

One thing that is always certain though - Skorne will take Minion stuff and do it better. I am of course talking about the new Skorne Aradus bug heavies.

Aradus Soldier - Swamp Horror 2.0

The Aradus Soldier is basically an improved Swamp Horror, with some minor differences. Let's compare the two.
  • Mobility: SPD 3 vs SPD 4, but the Aradus has AD, Pathfinder, and is in Skorne. Huge advantage Aradus.
  • Steadiness: A very important category. Both are Steady. Nil.
  • Power Attacks: 0 open fists vs 3 open fists. Point Horror.
  • Survability: 11/19, 29 boxes vs 10/17, 27 boxes (but access to Spiny Growth). Slight advantage Aradus.
  • Ranged damage reduction:, +4 ARM vs -1 die damage, and the Aradus' Carapace also works against backstrikes which combos great with Reach+Pull weapons. Point Aradus.
  • Melee output - non-Reach weapons: POW18 vs POW16 Critical Catastrophic Damage. Situational, but slight advantage Aradus.
  • Melee ouput - Reach Pull weapons: 2xPOW15 vs 3xPOW12. Situational, but slight advantage Aradus.
  • Animi: "RNG6: warbeast gains Snacking" vs "RNG6: model gets reach". Situational and factional differences, but advantage Horror.
  • PC - Aradus is 9, Horror is 8. Point Horror.

They are very similar in design - both resistant to ranged damage, both have Pull Reach attacks and a hard-hitting non-Reach attack - essentially in terms of combat they do very similar things. The Aradus wins in most categories (it is a point more for a reason) and is generally a better beast. However the Horror does grant Reach to things which is pretty amazing and the critical effect on the beak can wreck huge bases with a little luck.

Aradus Sentinel - Ironback Spitter 2.0

The Aradus Sentinel is basically an improved Ironback Spitter, with some minor differences. Let's compare the two:

  • Mobility: SPD 3 vs SPD 4, but the Aradus has AD, Pathfinder, and is in Skorne. Huge advantage Aradus. If I learned anything from Calaban's Theme Force, it's that ADing Spitters is pretty good.
  • Steadiness: Aradus is Steady. Point Aradus.
  • Power Attacks: Both have 2 open fists, but Aradus is MAT6/STR11. Slight advantage Aradus.
  • Survability: 11/19, 29 boxes vs 10/18, 27 boxes (but access to Spiny Growth). Slight advantage Aradus.
  • Anti-free strike mechanics: +4 ARM against free strikes vs attacker takes d6 damage after free strike). Huge advantage Aradus, especially for a ranged beast who wants to disengage from combat.
  • Ranged damage reduction: +4 ARM vs Girded. Huge advantage Aradus.
  • Melee damage: 2xPOW14 @ MAT6 vs 1xPOW15 + 2xPOW13 @ MAT5.
    Advantage Aradus.
  • Ranged damage: RNG10 POW13 AoE3 Non-typed Poison weapon with Arcing Fire @ RAT5 vs RNG 12 POW14 AoE3 Corrosion-typed Cont:Corrosion @RAT 5. 
    Situationally different, but I think the Aradus will have a significant advantage most of time time due to AD, lack of damage type (it can kill Gorman!) and boosted blast damage vs most models is better than 2/3 chance of auto-plink in the majority of circumstances. Point Aradus.
    Also the weapon is called VENOM BLASTER. That's metal as f*ck.
  • Animi: Swarm vs Ornery.
    Swarm can be useful if you end up getting jammed up and makes it DEF 13 (respectable). I have never cast Ornery in all my years of playing Spitters - as far as I am concerned the Spitter has no animus. Point Aradus.
  • PC: Both 8pts. Nil.
Again, very similar beasts in design - not great in melee, have some free strike protection, some ranged protection, and are primarily about their really good gun. The Aradus Sentinel however, is better in almost every way and clearly a better design. If the Spitter had a really good animus it might be able to compete on some level, but it has no animus.

TL;DR - The Skorne Empire releases Minions 2.1, now extending their improvement of Minion models to heavy warbeasts.

Basically, more reasons to make me sad about Minionhood and make me want to play Skorne who just keep taking Minion stuff and doing it better. I read a good post on some forum a few days ago about Rasheth being the 4-Star of Minions - very accurate!

However I just think about all the baggage playing Skorne entails, with their huge backlog of models and the slippery slope waiting there, and the desire quickly goes away. Plus I hate getting shot :)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jaga-Jaga Theme Force - Voodoo Dolls

With the book now officially out, and 100% confirmed only two Gator releases, I thought I should put up this theme list with some completely hypothetical and untested thoughts, together with some ruthlessly sarcastic analysis:

The list

Beasts = all current beasts
Units = Bog Trog units, Gatorman units
Solos = All current solos but Pendrake, Raluk and Totem Hunter
Battle Engine = Sacral Vault

So it's like Blindwater minus Swamp Gobbers, Pendrake, Totem Hunter, Raluk Moorclaw, and -1 FA on Gatorman stuff. Nothing too exciting there. At least you don't have to pretend like the swamp templates matter.

Tier Bonuses

Tier 1 = Reduce PC of Sacral Vaults by 1 (8pts)

This is neat. They are FA:2 so at most you will save 2 pts. That's a single free Croak Hunter! WOW.
A better way of looking at this is that it gives you the free Feralgeists you need to achieve the Tier 2 bonus.

Tier 2 = 3 or more Undead models/units -> Undead models gets advance move.

Currently there are 3 Undead models available for this list - Boneswarms, Shamblers and Feralgeists. It's not entirely unreasonable to take one of each in this list, especially with Posse being FA:2, you will probably take a unit of Shamblers. And a single Boneswarm isn't terrible for the animus and the fury if you are otherwise running beast light...

This is similar to the Maelok theme Tier 3 bonus, which I used almost exclusively to move Maelok up so that he would be able to Death Pact something and then walk comfortably behind a wall. However this bonus is much better than the Maelok one because it allows all the Swamp Shamblers to get an Advance Move (not the Bokor, as he is not an Undead model). So neato, I guess, especially with the Tier 4 bonus. 

In a scenario like Incursion, it would also help your multiple Feralgeists to rush to the side flags to hopefully get you an early point.

Tier 3 = 2 or more models/units with Magic Ability -> Start with all upkeeps in play

Models with Magic Ability = Shambler Bokor, Gatorman Witch Doctor (I don't think Wrong Eye counts).
This tier is super easy to achieve since you are taking at least one unit of Shamblers for the previous bonus, and Witch Doctors are great with Shamblers because Tough on cheap garbage throwaway models is the height of tactical brilliance.
However the bonus is negligible since Jaga-Jaga only has 2 upkeeps (Escort and Grave Wind) which are very easy to put up and then charge forward if you want to be really aggressive (which with Jaga herself you don't really want to be).

Tier 4 = One or more Sacral Vaults -> 2" extra deployment.

Other than the Advance Move on the one unit of Shamblers, there's no reason to play this tier other than the cheaper Sacral Vaults, so this bonus is almost automatically achieved. Basically it means after your first turn, you should have Shambler grunts at or slightly past the midway point of the table. Cool.

So your list could look something like this:

Voodoo Dolls #1
Points: 50/50
Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer (*5pts)
* Bone Swarm (4pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Blackhide Wrastler (9pts)
Gatorman Bokor and Bog Trog Shamblers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
Thrullg / Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)

You could probably drop the heavy for a unit of Posse but with two Vaults you will have a lot of infantry killing already, and a heavy gives Escort purpose.

My initial impressions are bleh. It doesn't seem that playing 2pts up and getting advance move Shamblers is worth giving up a 3rd Posse (or second unit of Shamblers!).

I think the Tier 2 requirements are the downer, since either you take a Boneswarm (a pretty bad model) or you spend points on Feralgeists who are neat models but it is basically just eating up your 2 free points to meet this requirement.

You could change the above list slightly by removing the Boneswarm to get:

Voodoo Dolls #2
Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer (*5pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Blackhide Wrastler (9pts)
Gatorman Bokor and Bog Trog Shamblers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Croak Hunter (2pts)
Croak Hunter (2pts)Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)

Which is probably better than the above. It could be further modified by trading Vault + Wrastler for 5 Posse + Spitter if you only wanted to run a Single Vault (also decent):

Voodoo Dolls #3
Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer (*5pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Bull Snapper (3pts)
* Ironback Spitter/Swamp Horror (8pts)
Gatorman Bokor and Bog Trog Shamblers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)
Thrullg / Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts) (you could keep the 2 Croak Hunters from above if you wished by dropping a Geist)
Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
Sacral Vault (8pts)

Alternatively, if you just want to play 2 Posse, 1 Vault and no Totem Hunter/Gobbers, you just take this list at tier 1 and essentially get a free Feralgeist rather than the Blindwater templates (very good deal IMO). I think that's where the list is best to be honest, because at present only having 3 models to fill the Tier 2 requirement to get what the list does best (jamming with tough Shamblers) is a bit of a downer.

If it is ruled that one unit of Shamblers fulfills the Tier 2 requirement by itself (which would mean the rule is horribly written), then the list would have a little more flexibility and be quite a bit better.

TL;DR version:
  • Give up +1 FA on Gatorman Units, Solos and BEs + Totem Hunter
  • Get 2" extra deployment and Advance Move on Shambler grunts
Safe, uninspired theme force that mostly exists just because there is an unwritten rule that every warlock must have a theme force. Not really bad but not really good either.

The main benefit is basically better jamming with one unit of (tough) Shamblers, which also comes with the requirement of 3 undead model/units. 2" extra deployment in general is also neat for melee lists, but you have to meet Tier 2 to get there.

The jam can be pretty sweet if your opponent has no guns or competent infantry clearing or if you're a skilled player and make lots of tough rolls. If you keep the Bokur safe, you can hopefully wrack up some corpse tokens to make more Shamblers. Then you follow up with dual Vaults and get souls and shoot things and laugh and then play another list. I think she just works so well with 3 Posse and the tanky Totem Hunter that light Shambler jam doesn't really make up for it, but we shall see how big an impact the Vault will have.

Goddamn, does War Room eat up your phone battery or what....

All the Gatormans

Here's all my stuff painted as of today (actually 6 something months ago, since no Shamblers):

Click to enlarge
I think I took this picture as an example of the base markings I use to differentiate my 3 Posse units. Just thought I should put it up on here for future reference.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A short article on Piece Trading

 I made this pretty good post on the PP forums a few months back about piece trading and thought I should archive it here. The question posed was "explain piece trading to me". Here is my response:

I think piece-trading is one of the fundamental concepts of Warmachine. It is one of the pillars of an attrition-based strategy.

One of the first things I try to impress upon new players is that some or most their stuff is going to die almost every game (a lot of people have a hard time with this concept because they get emotionally attached to their models and how cool and badass they are supposed to be, and forget their opponent's stuff is also cool and badass). What matters is what you get in exchange for it on the following turn(s). You should always expect stuff to die, but you should likewise always have a plan for what you can get in return for something dying.

For example, as a Blindwater player, good piece trading is how I can beat Runes of War. That's fundamentally what that matchup comes down to for me.
If you as the Troll player lead with the Runeshapers, then I can just kill them with unbuffed Gators (assuming you don't pull out high-skill, uncounterable plays like making lots of tough rolls), and in return I lose a couple of those Gators in exchange for your heavy, and generally don't have to worry about the heavies as much if they are in the back and just exposing themselves to kill a few Gators.
This pushes you to lead with beasts instead and make good use of the walls to mitigate my charges. Because I have longer effective threat ranges on my heavies with Boundless Charge + Reach (not to mention Rask's feat), and they hit really hard with Fury + Rask's amazing gun of wonder, I can probably use one of my heavies a turn to kill one of your heavies and initiate the trading. That heavy will in turn be killed by another of your heavies. Something like this:

Wrastler (+a few extra damage points) kills Mulg -> Earthborn kills Wrastler -> Swamp Horror kills Earthborn -> Mauler kills Swamp Horror -> Furied Gators/Snapjaw kills Mauler -> I have Snapjaw + a lot of Gators and you have Runeshapers that although really good will have trouble dealing with that much ARM and attacks, and Horluk without transfers easily dies to a Gator or two.

Horluk's feat can potentially be a problem of course, that's like the ace in the hole for the Troll player and makes for a real good game.

Doom Reavers are a good example of a piece-trade oriented unit because when used effectively they force a choice - if your opponent ignores them, they get charged by MAT 7 POW 13 reach berserk weapon masters. That is not a sweet for them, and super sweet for you. However, if you opponent uses attacks on killing the Doom Reavers, then they aren't damaging your other stuff. The key to using Doom Reavers effectively is to make sure that choice exists. If you throw them out front and they get shot without consequences, then they accomplish nothing. If they get shot at, and in doing so means your other, potentially more important pieces get where they need to be (all it takes is one Reaver to force command checks and tie up stuff), then that could be worth 6 pts in itself.

Likewise, I've won a lot of games because I was able to just throw a crapload of troops in my opponent's face to stop him getting into a zone. Jamming, as this is called, is basically trading models for control points/board control. It doesn't matter if you give up 25pts of your army in one turn if you can win the game next turn.

In terms of factions, Cryx is really good at the piece-trade game because they can trade cheap garbage for your expensive stuff in almost every list using all their crack-fueled buffs/debuffs and mildly OP troops. That's why it's really important to take out the lynchpin models like Necrosurgeons, the very last Bile Thrall, Tartarus or whatever to reduce the impact of their retaliation OR, more effectively, just shoot them from a distance where they can't really hit back. That's why Cryx doesn't do so well vs ranged factions like Ret, Cygnar or PoM and curbstomps melee-centric factions like Trolls, Skorne, Gators, etc. It basically comes down to piece-trading.


Building up from there, I would expand on the Runes of War matchup by looking at the Nilsson vs Flanzer matchup that took place at the 2013 WTC. This was Maelok with 3 Posse, 3 Croctors, 3 Bull Snappers and WE + Snapjaw vs the standard Runes of War list (with Axer).

Flanzer realized that if he lead with the Runeshapers, as one often does with Runes of War, they will simply get killed by unbuffed Gators and not kill too many of them in return. The heavies might then kill a couple, but by then, Revived Gators would have infiltrated the rear ranks, started killing the Krielstone and probably would have gotten to Doomshaper. This would be quite bad for the Troll board position.

Instead, Flanzer decided to put his heavies up front. He realized that Gators without Rask suck at cracking ARM 19+ really bad and he was rocking ARM 21+ due to walls, Krielstone and animi. No problem. As a result, he was able to cockblock Maelok's feat using Mulg's magic stick as well as the anti-incorporeal aura at a safe distance and just slowly grind the Gators down by throwing them away and plinking them off with Runeshaper AoEs, giving almost nothing up in return.

Despite officially being the (Kanye-approved) Greatest Minion Player of All Time, Rickard was not able to trade the Gators for anything given the board position. Beating on the heavies was a highly unlikely proposition for him, and his only real chance in the matchup was to push aggressively for the assassination, which is really tough given Runes' defensive layers.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Exigence Gatorman releases



Bam. 2 releases. Again. Disappointed. Again, despite my low expectations. Funny how history repeats itself. I am unsure whether to wait a week and hope for more 'legit' spoilers, or to (more realistically) keep crying in my corn flakes.

Both pretty much fully spoiled months ahead, the BEs probably as a result of Tinkerhouse/War Room mistake.
I do like that Battle Engine a lot though. It's probably 1 of the 3 or 4 models I feel Gators needed to feel "complete", or complete enough to be on par with core factions as they currently stand. I think, for me at least, it will see more play than Shamblers once it comes out mid-2015. Enjoy the wait, fellow reptiles!

Exigence Gatorman/Minion spoilers

Updated as I see things on the internets. Everything 100% unconfirmed and just as likely to be trolling. Initial thoughts posted for later amusement.

1. Sacral Vault also works for Legion and Circle. Pig BE works for Trolls and Skorne. Apparently  pretty much as spoiled before.

Because we cannot have nice things by ourselves. I don't mind sharing anyway. But I do love playing stuff that craps on Cryx!

2. Maximus: Doom Reaver with Relentless Charge, Tough and Unyielding SPD 6 MAT 8 DEF 13 ARM 16 PC 2
Works for everyone, but probably not Gators. Because Minions are one faction and all that propaganda.

That is good. Very good. Assuming he also has at least 5 damage boxes, that is a tanky, tanky Reaver. Still can get shot but he can deal a lot of damage.

3. Some light cav solo, likely for Pigs.

I swear to god, if both Pacts don't get a useful beast of some kind....

4. Apparently no Gobber Pirate thingos

Whatever. Gobbers are stupid. I just realized yesterday that the Swamp Gobbers are not actually amphibious. SWAMP. GOBBERS. Might as well rename to Desert Gas Goblins.

5. Apparently none of the promised cross-pact stuff?

Ok things have died down for a while it seems.Hoping for something else.

Pls PP つ ◕_◕ ༽つ GIV WARBIST つ ◕_◕ ༽つ 

Another thingo:

Jaga theme: 
1 - Indeterminate restrictions = reduce point cost of BE by 1
2 - 3+ undead models/units = undead models gain advance move
3 - Two+ models with Magic Ability = friendly models / units can begin the game affected by jaga jaga's upkeeps
4 - 1+ Sacral Vault =  2" extra deployment zone

Unless you get access to some sweet out of faction stuff, this is literally a steaming pile of cat vomit. Unless you get the 3 Posse and everything you would normally bring of course.
Helga theme:
1 - reduced cost of BE by 1
2 - slaughterhouser units, maximus gain AD
3- 2" extra deployment zone
4- +1 to starting roll!

See comment above, but switch out cat for dog vomit (larger area but not as putrid).

Light Cav Pig solo:
Works for everyone in hordes but gators
light cav, pathfinder, camouflage, sniper, RNG 12, POW 7 AP gun.

Stats: SPD8 STR5 MAT6 RAT7 DEF14 ARM14 and CMD8 
Race is Efaarit and he rides a retarded version of a camel.

Works for everyone BUT Gators! Hahahahah!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Highly Limited Jaga Jaga play experiences

It seems my playgroup has pretty much died in terms of Warmahordes, given the really slow pace of change in the game/meta and the many entertainment alternatives available in geekdom, but regardless here are some play experiences and thoughts I have managed to get together with Jaga-Jaga before doing my "proper" write-up:

Game 1 vs Helga
2 Slaughterhouser units, 1 War Hog, 1 Road Hog, few Razorboards, some support stuff and manly solos
  • My Wrastler charged (could have walked - I was thinking SPD 6 rather than 7) a Death Shrouded Road Hog and only brought it to half health. Sad face. My damage rolls against beasts were pretty atrocious the whole game.
  • Dash is a pretty hard counter to Jaga's feat, but nevertheless the jamming aspect of it caused some minor issues.
  • SPD 6 turtles are nice but still suck horribly in melee. SPD 7 Wrastlers being able to walk and Death Roll however - serious business.
  • I would have lost on scenario over turns 3/4/5 if he'd just jammed me out of my zone after I had a series of mediocre rolls and an underwhelming feat turn (thanks Dash). But we kept playing as if that wasn't an option. As a result, I tried to get a Deadweight on Helga by killing a nearby Bonegrinder and rolled snake eyes on the damage (boo) and then decided to use my last 2 fury for Grave Wind. Jaga was left alive on 2 boxes, cut to 1, managed to make her way to Helga using transfers and killed her on my last attack. Poison + reach snake = MVP. 

Lessons learned - Basically no reason I'd drop Jaga Jaga vs the current Pig meta. Jaga Jaga not as good as Rask against Pigs. Getting the alpha + hitting really hard wins... a lot.
I hope to be able to test her against Circle (especially Kromac), Cryx and likely also Khador/Legion, as those are matchups were Rask isn't the bee's knees.

Game 2 vs Scaverous
Full Bane Thralls + UA, Full Croes, Deathjack, Min Biles, Tartarus, arc node, Gorman, Withershadow
  • New opponent for me, I unfortunately forgot his name (Peter?) but he agreed that DotA was a sweet game so he's cool in my book. The scenario was Supply and Demand.
  • Feat did ok - held up the Bane countercharge for a turn so I traded evenly on that flank and got Dark Shroud on the Deathjack on the other flank, allowing me to finish him off with a charging Gatorman (he had been brought low previously by a charging Wrastler and almost killed due to Spiny Growth - good trade for me).
  •  Really wish I had Witch Doctors vs Cryx. It would have helped significantly vs Deathjack's healing and Croe's poison weapons. Will probably always take at least 1 with her from now on, even though the benefits aren't as steep as with Maelok.
  • Scenario win in the end, thanks largely to the forest in the dead middle of the zone I just hid behind the whole game and dominated twice over 3 rounds after killing his objective. Ghost Walk came in handy to get a charging Spitter through to the relevant models to clear the zone.
Lessons learned - take Witch Doctors whenever you have 3 Posse. The Undead is extremely useful vs Cryx, and having another ranged nuke is pretty useful in general to take out the support and crutch solos. Plus Tough is potentially neat.

Game 3 vs Constance Blaize (Highborn Covenant)
Gallant, Nomad, Gastone + Vanguard, Full Precursors + UA, Max Steelhead Cav, Min Halberdiers, Gun Mages + UA, Harlan Versh

This time I brought my "Cryx" list, with 3 Posse and 2 Witch Doctors. Also had the Spitter, Wrastler and Snapper, together with Pendrake.

  • Scenario was Incursion - there was a house between my deployment and the right flag, and a forest roughly midway between the center and the left flag slightly on his side of the table. He deployed heavily to the left flag where I deployed more centrally with a Posse dedicated to each flag, a Wrastler to the left flag and the rest pretty central. Only the Gun Mages were within reach of the right flag.
  • The left flag disappeared, which means I ended up in a highly favourable position, and won by rushing the right flag, just killing whatever gun mages I needed to score each turn. Basically, he deployed poorly and luck didn't reward him.
  • Jaga-Jaga did two useful things in the game -
    1) Cast Ghost Walk on the central Posse unit so get 2 more into combat by ignoring freestrikes and walking through impassable terrain.
    2) Use her feat, which against an infantry swarm like the one I was facing was as sweet, as you'd expect. It was a very effective jamfest and the Dark Shroud helped Posse make short work of the Steelhead Cav with their second attacks. The one major downside is that it is annoying and takes a long time to administer.
    After the feat turn, she healed a beast and ran over to the right flag to win me the game.... so I guess that was useful too (SPD 6 = sweet).
  • Witch Doctors did functionally nothing, but Pendrake did manage to KD Gallant so that my Wrastler with a missing Mind could walk 7" up to it and 2-hand throw it away from the flag to get a CP.
Lessons learned - Jaga-Jaga is a super passive caster. It's almost like I'm playing Warmachine instead of the dynamic system that is Hordes. I guess Maelok plays the same if you're a sissy and never use Malediction (the optimal but definitely most boring way to play).
Also SPD 6 Spitters are really neat, but we knew that with Barnabas/Warpath anyway. I keep considering bring a Swamp Horror instead of a Wrastler, but the SPD 7 Wrastler with Grave Wind/Spiny Growth keeps doing so much work that I never follow through on it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Runes of War of Minions

Non Gator news I'm afraid, but given that I have only managed to get in two games with Jaga-Jaga since she was revealed (she is alright), this is the best I have at the moment.

Here is why I want to talk about this list - it is ridiculously overpowered. Or would be, if the current lot of Pig beasts weren't so bad. This is basically PP acknowledging that the Gun Boar, Road Hog and War Hog have the value of steaming road apples at their current points cost.

Here is what you get in this theme force at each tier:

Tier 1 - Goraxes. Perhaps one of the best light beasts in the game, with a really good animus that is crazy good in Pigs, and especially with Arkadius. This is because guaranteed frenzy is not a disadvantage in Arkadius list - it is actually a sizable advantage. You want your beasts to frenzy after they go in and end up on full fury - that is the Farrow form of fury control. Arkadius does nothing for troops, and everything to keep beasts running as aggressively as possible at full efficiency with the use of Aggravator (Hyper Aggressive on everything), Psycho Surgery and his feat. Also you can stack it with Forced Evolution for a +4 damage swing because f*ck subtlety. Or +6 with Crippling Grasp... or +8 with the War Hog STR dial.

But wait - these Goraxes also have Shield Guard! Because the good Doctor has a tendency to get shot, they casually give him a super sweet, cheap Shield Guard that also happens to do lots of other stuff. Literally no downsides to this ability other than pissing off Circle players (which many would consider yet another benefit).

Tier 2 - 2" extention to your deployment zone. Sure, why not. It's not like your entire list is built entirely on the premise of running into your opponent's face as fast as your piggy legs will take you, frenzying everywhere and picking up the pieces afterwards.

Tier 3 - Free Razor Boar for each Gun Boar, Road Hog or War Hog in the list (1). In other words, a 2pt reduction on each of those. Put yet another way, your average 50pt list with 5-6 of the above beasts gives you a 10-12pt advantage over your opponent. 
TWELVE POINTS. That is almost a 25% points advantage over the whole list. It's like they looked at the 25% points reduction on Runeshapers in Runes of War and decided that going full retard wasn't enough - they had to go ludicrous speed.

That, dear readers, is how bad Pig beasts are at baseline, and what some would call a Carver tax. Except Razor Boars, which for 2pts are totally worth it in an Arkadius list with all the BG buffs you get and you would likely be bringing 3-4 anyway. And now you get 10pts to spend elsewhere.

4 - Running first turn without being forced. See Tier 2 above. Not as big a deal since you will probably be forcing a few beasts to make up for casting your upkeeps, but it sure as hell helps with all those Razor Boars you get for nothing.

Also you can take Bone Grinders AND Slaughterhousers, aka. the only two Farrow units I respect. And if by some direct intervention of God Himself, Farrows get a decent heavy in the next book, you can take that too! All you have to do is give up one of your free Razor Boars.

So what do you have to do to get the above goodies? Let me tell you:

Tier 1 - Don't take non-Farrow solos or Brigands.  Oh noes.

Tier 2 - Take the one solo you have that interacts with warbeasts.  The humanity.

Tier 3 - Take 5 warbeasts. With Arkadius? You poor, poor bastard. I am so sorry.

Tier 4 - Take 2 Super Goraxes. The horror.

Now, if you are willing to make the above sacrifices, you can play the Arkadius theme list, stop asking for an arc node and play this caster as intended with your 20% points advantage. I mean, even if you have a massive incurable hard-on for Crippling Grasp and must absolutely try to cast it every game, you now have access to excellent Shield Guards to significantly reduce the chances of almost certain death!

It won't make Pigs into a legit faction by itself (like Rask almost did for Gatormans), and it does have some glaring issues (lack of pathfinder, for one) but it does finally give you a skewy as f*ck, extremely characterful list that refines Arkadius into doing what he does even better via a sizable across the board points reduction on your overcosted Pig beasts, some Shield Guard beasts, the Primal animus, and moar speeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed. And the best part is that you actually have to know what you're doing with the list, because Arkadius is not that easy to play with his wussy defensive stats and highly chaotic beast-heavy playstyle.

TL;DR: Another caster you will never play out of tier ever again. Literally the best thing released for Pigs since Lord Carver.

(1) I know the tier requirement above uses the word 'and' but DC more or less confirmed in this post that PP is not really that swell at logical analysis and use of the English language.