Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Blindwalker Sculpt preview

Trapped in a box!

Hopefully the final model looks less derpy.

EDIT: It doesn't.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Slow Death of Power Attacks

"You're playing with power now. Don't be afraid! Few things are more satisfying than slamming your opponent's warjack into a unit of soldiers and watching them fall over like bowling pins...Try picking up the enemy warcaster (with a warjack, of course) and throwing it across the battlefield! It's almost more fun than you should be allowed to have in a miniatures game."

- Page 5, Warmachine Prime Mk1 (2002)

Blindwater pre-Colossals

One of the things that attracted me to Blindwater initially was the importance of power attacks to the playstyle. In my very first post on this blog back in 2012, I described Gatormans as "tactically strong, strategically weak". In other words, Gators were a faction that usually did not come to battle with a hard set plan and relied heavily on adapting to the table and opponent in order to achieve victory. This is what power attacks are all about.

One of the major issues Blindwater had was dealing with enemy heavies:
  • Calaban had Parasite to kill one a turn, maybe two if the stars aligned and you got a working feat turn, although it would usually leave him exposed and dead next turn. 
  • Barnabas' only viable answer was shallow water, namely throwing heavy jacks into Swamp Pits, which he was quite good at thanks to Warpath, or just slowing them down with rough terrain. Jamming heavies with Iron Flesh Dirged Posse was also sometimes a viable tactic.
  • Maelok relied on jamming, ignoring or sandpapering heavies down over time with multiple Posse charges. 
In any case, it wasn't easy, and you had to play smart to win games. This all changed with the release of Colossals.

Colossals & Gargossals

I often say that Gargossals as a model type were the single worst thing to happen to the game. I believe this because while I think they are quite balanced in terms of competitive power, they significantly flattened the tactical and strategic depth of the game.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of how you could deal with a heavy in 2010:
  • Arm Lock
  • Throw it away (into shallow water, behind a wall, behind a forest, into another heavy...)
  • Slam it away (see above)
  • Black Oil!
  • Disrupt / Paralyze it (KD + Thrullg against non-reach warjacks was sweet)
  • Focus/Forcing denial (ie. Absylonia1's Blight Field, Hypnos' Void Lock, Wrong Eye's Voodoo Doll)
  • Shadow Bind
  • Jamming (esp. with medium bases)
  • Control it with terrain if no pathfinder
  • Kill it

Here is how you can deal with Gargossals today:
  • Kill it
  • Focus/Forcing denial (ie. Absylonia1's Blight Field, Hypnos' Void Lock, Wrong Eye's Voodoo Doll)
  • Paralyze Gargantuans?
  • Jamming? (given that they can shoot while engaged, it's nowhere near as potent).

That's it. Following the nerfs to Shadow Bind and Black Oil, that is all that remains. The tactical options are laughable compared to what they once were, especially when viewed in the context of board control and scenario play.

From a Blindwater perspective, given the lack of high POW attacks in faction, we were left with a few options - play Calaban with Hex Blast & Parasite and go all in and die next turn, jam Gators into an impregnable iron wall to buy time or play Carver with his garbage beasts. Neither option was great.
Then we got Rask a few months before Gargantuans release, who both solved almost every problem presented by Gargossals and made me a weaker player almost over night despite winning more games.

What concerns me is that this process of removing power attacks as tactical options has reared its ugly head prominently in the last two expansions - Reckoning and Devastation.

Cornerstone & Implacability

First, Reckoning brought us Anson Durst, Rock of the Faith and Summoner of Dank Memes. Of relevance is his Rampart Guardian Stance, which allows him to sacrifice movement/action to gain Cornerstone and grant it to all b2b models (Cornerstone = cannot be KD/placed/pushed/made stationary, ie. can only be thrown or slammed).
While it does reduce the chances to use power attacks against Durst, it is limited to him and models immediately next to him, and it doesn't eliminate the two movement power attacks. I am ok with this given its limited scope.

Second, and most significantly, we have Devastation's most powerful warlock, Doomshaper3, and his spell Implacability. For 2 fury, Doomy stops all models in his battlegroup and 14" control area being KD, placed, pushed or moved by a slam (ie. can only be thrown and made stationary).
Unlike Rampant Guardian Stance, I am not ok with Implacability on this warlock, primarily because a) it is in Trolls, one of the tankiest factions with multiple high ARM heavies and b) it combos stupidly with his feat that grants an effective ~5 ARM to his battlegroup (on top of boosted attack rolls, but let's not go there) and c) it affects EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE (almost).

My initial reaction to such a feat is to KD & control since the battlegroup are otherwise invulnerable. Implacability shits on that. Not only does Implacability remove a lot of options for dealing with his super tanky, super hard hitting, goading warbeasts, but the huge amount of ARM on the table every round, and the nigh-insurmountable amount of ARM on the feat turn, drastically reduce your tactical options that turn to a degree comparable to Haley2's pre-nerf feat.
That's a bold statement, so let me phrase it another way for dramatic impact: if you do not have access to very select tools, such as focus/fury control or stationary, you have basically no option that turn but grin and bear it. That is basically a timewalk feat, and given Troll ARM values outside that feat turn, the timewalk seeps into every other turn as well unless you have significant POW values.


The game is moving more and more towards ARM skew / POW overload at the cost of power attacks and board control, and I am not sure I like where things are going.
It seems PP have forgotten a key tenant of their original Page 5 manifesto, perhaps the only part of the document that was uncontroversial and can truly be said to have excited players of all persuasions about the game - heavy warjacks and warbeasts fighting like pro wrestlers.

I guess that in the end they did decide that power attacks were in fact more fun than you should be having in a miniatures game.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Devastation Review

So it seems that the text-form spoilers that hit the internet recently are very close to accurate, following this BOLS video showing Hoarluk's page for 10 mins and then skimming the rest of the book in the other 10 mins:

As is semi-traditional for me, I am doing a write up to help process the information through my game membrane, and to provide something to look back upon and laugh about how wrong/right I was about certain things. To spice things up and give everyone a chance to nod in agreement or tableflip in disagreement, I will assign an arbitrary grade/value of some sort out of 5 for each model.


Doomshaper3 - a pretty cool new iteration on the old Troll beastlock. Hyper Regen is a legit battlegroup ability (source: Syntherion) and he brings quality variants of his old spell toolkit - Repudiate being the new less OP version of Purification, and Unminding being a new way to screw Hordes over. Admonition is decent defensive tech although he will still probably want Janyssa to babysit his poor defensive stats.
I hate Implacability - power attacks are one of the coolest thing in the game (tactically and thematically) and have already been pushed out of the game dramatically with huge bases. Now we have this douchebaggy spell version of Durst's b2b abilityto further cement it.
Th feat is stronger than the average Trollblood feat, and really pushes you to take a few high ARM, high wound beasts (Gargantuans and Mulg? Load up that theme list!) and maybe even a few tanky lights. It's like getting an effective ~+5 ARM on every model AND boosted attack rolls.
Scroll Bearer is cool - dunno why this is a unit rather than a solo like Borka's Keg Carrier though. No punishment for killing him means he will have a sniper's target on his head at all times.

Glacier King - Significantly better than the Mountain King. Good melee with the Freeze fists, a gun so excellent it wouldn't look out of place on a Cygnar or Retribution model, useful support with the concealment and an animus that lends itself to grindfests due to it's 3" extent. Throw in a hefty amount of Troll buffs, and we're cooking with.... frost... fire. Frostfire. So cool it burns.

Dhunia Knot - Neat support unit. At first glance they seem bland (as most Troll things tend to) but then you see "Puppet Master" and then you see 3 guys and think "interesting". Basically Puppet Master bots who will occasionally be called upon to stop frenzies or heal a thing. Seems to help the beast heavy Troll lists a bit. If I were a well rounded Troll player I would probably have a strong favourable/unfavourable opinion on this, alas I am but a mere mortal.

Pyg Bushwhacker UA - I don't really get why there's a mortar attached (at least it's not light artillery) but the officer brings some cool buffs to the unit. Combined Arms is excellent since the best use of the unit was already doing 5x 2-man CRAs, and Slip Away partially stops enemy models running to engage you, as you can just walk past them and snipe out their support! Very nice addition to the faction.




Kromac2 - Basically the Circle Butcher, Kromac2 sacrifices subtlety and denial for being a mushroom-fueled, blood crazed berserker. He gets to melee, he melees accurately and he melees hard. He also makes Undead even better with a slew of powerful living-only abilities. Oh, Soles. You sly dog, you.

Storm Raptor - Holy infantry shred, Batman! This MAT 5 Gargantuan basically just shits out lightning attacks and acts as a giant tesla coil: buffing lightning attack hit and damage rolls nearby, and frying stuff that attacks it with Plasma Nimbus. If you have no lightning damage, then it's not particularly synergistic, so I'm guessing it's a sign of Krueger3 to come.
I think it's interesting enough as a release and will do nice things for Circle, bringing in some meaty boxes and P+S values along with the characteristic infantry shred.

Blackclad Mist Riders - Classic Circle - fast, high DEF, low ARM, total BS. With Blizzard up they are DEF 18, which is pretty hard to shoot, while blocking LoS with the cloud. Yay cloud walls - gotta systematically buff those Assault Kommandos while buffing all Legion at the same time! Making clouds at will is great for Circle and its many Prowl models.
I think the low MAT is the only issue but Circle has a million ways to squeaky shine it to excellence. Super mobile cloud wall + high potential of annoying, long range slams = douche city.

Blood Weaver Night Witch - Enemy of the Day Witch! Basically two things jump out about this model - first is Grievous Wounds on a SPD 7 stealth pathfinder solo which can also boost attack/damage rolls, meaning Circle's assassination game against Hordes got a lot better. Second is granting Killing Spree (basically Madrak1's feat) to Bloodweavers, a very good utility unit that was already pretty baller at killing infantry with a POW 6 5" AoE. I guess the free move does help get gang bonuses and a little mobility is always nice. Oh, and it also has Killing Spree itself, which means it can kill lots of infantry... typical Circle.



The Twins - Two pretty decent solos were given a spell list and made to work together under unit coherency rules. Despite some technical hangups, I think this warlock can actually be really powerful following enough practice. Saying that, the technical aspects make them difficult to use (ie. highly constrained) in several situations and therefore less powerful than several of their solo counterparts. I would not be surprised to see them do well in tournaments though, since the difficult technical aspects for you are also confusing for your opponent.

Blight Bringer - SPD4 beast in Legion?! The sky must be falling. In any case, this seems like it would fit right in with the grindier, infantry-focused Legion that has been filling up design space as of late. You get pretty decent artillery support with a 5" AoE that stays in play and provides FU effects to the enemy, along with good melee punch (crit poison POW 18 tail - ouch) and some good short range support/denial tools. Exactly the kind of thing you want to bring back with pThags!


Grotesque Banshees - Mmmm... not entirely sold. Silencer is potentially a really powerful ability that can hurt casters and several solos significantly, however it is only on a direct hit and with RAT 5, that's not going to happen too often outside say Lylyth1's feat.
Basically you have several SP6 POW 12s, which is a good tool to have in a jam to hit many things (see: Reciprocators in CoC - which don't hit your own guys), and Flight allows you to walk over your own models to position those sprays better. I guess in the end I don't particularly understand what Grotesques are supposed to bring to Legion.

Grostesque Assassin - Another mediocre Legion melee solo. Actually this one is a little nicer than mediocre in that it has Sprint and multiple attacks (or a P+S15 combo), and if for some reason you wanted to run Grotesques, they can now get there without dying. Neato!
I think its best use is to Desperate Pace the Banshees, as high advance values on spray-toting units is legit. Then late game you can get in some opportune kills due to Flight & Sprint.


Zaal2 - It's like Zaal got downgraded but his Skornergy went epic. He seems to want to hearken back to the (very cool) Mk1 Skorne design of "getting stronger as your stuff dies", but Skorne has moved so far away from that playstyle in Mk2, and the pieces that made it work aren't really there anymore (AGs got nerfed to crap compared to what they could do with souls in Mk1).
Most Skorne players seem to dislike him as well so either he will turn out to be super amazing and annoying, or completely unplayed.
Fundamentally, it seems like a warlock that scales well above 50pts where he can get both disposable infantry AND a good selection of warbeasts in addition to his constructs. At 50 or below, he is a warlock who can do many things but only gets to do one of those things depending on how you build the list, and that's not very interesting.

Desert Hydra - This thing can deal monstrous damage against a variety of things in a variety of ways. It's a bit like Typhon on crack, with a much better animus (would be great on warlocks like Makeda3). If you can keep it alive, it can deal out a lot of pain. Nothing especially new for Skorne, but I feel it's a Gargantuan that is different enough from the Mammoth to have a reason to exist.

Immortals UA - Pretty good UA that against pays homage to Mk1 Skorne. I think if you want to take Immortals, you can spend 2pts to get a) an excellent ranged weapon, and b) some cool abilities - both of which have great synergy with Makeda1 (fortunately the Skornergy with her feat prevents it from being over the top).

Legends of Halaak (character unit) - well, this is out of left field. Basically a unit of capable combat solos who flank with each other and have 3 granted abilities - Side Step, +2 DEF when B2B, and Relentless Charge. One of them has reach and def strike, one has two swords + combo, and one has two mauls + combo.
They are basically the Great Bears' evil cousins. I think the Great Bears are better (Tough+Steady OP!), but that explains the point differential!


Now we get to the highly critical and introspect part of this summary :)

Battle Boar - Take a Gun Boar, remove the gun, reduce the PC by 1 and give it Rabid (force for +2SPD, Pathfinder and fully boosted melee for a turn). Also give it an equally bad but situationally useful animus (basically a RNG 6 spell that grants injured warbeasts RFP).
Overall, not terrible, which for Pigs is a huge win. I'd put it on par with the Razor Boar in that it's a throwaway meatshield that can do a little bit of damage, cause a little chaos and screen the rest of your stuff before it frenzies/dies. Will be good with Carver.... like everything else in the game.

Splatter Boar - This beast may actually be the only legitimately good pig beast. That means a lot coming from me!
First, it's a Gun Boar with a useful animus - from the Slag Troll (+2 to melee damage, immune to Corrossion and Crit Corrossion on RNG 6). Very useful in general to buff one of your terrible heavies, or more useful to buff Maximus or a Slaughterhouser. Probably worth taking one in an Ark list just for this reason.
Second, it's a Gun Boar with a good gun! You'll almost never directly hit anything with it, but the three ammo types are all legit. Acid Bomb for a 3" POW 12 Corrossion AoE (ala Gorman) to wreck Shield Wallers, POW 14 Fire Smoke Cloud to be annoying (or give stealth to Brigands with Warlord ZOMG), and an AoE that causes Command and Frenzy checks on HIT. I was super surprised this wasn't on direct hit, given that it's a Pig model which are consistently handicapped. You spam out three of those a turn and it's a pretty skewy list vs Hordes/non-fearless infantry.
Third, it actually fits my idea of Pig design - barely controlled chaos and randomness. A design approach that would make Pigs somewhat unique and interest and has been dabbled in but definitely needs more emphasis for them to stop sucking balls.

Brigand Warlord UA - Take a decent 2pt solo, make him cost 3pts, and attach him to a mediocre deadweight of a unit granting them some good but uncoordinated abilities. What a missed opportunity.

Blindwalker - After some consideration, I think this is the worst Gator release since the Boneswarm.
Which isn't too bad considering that our releases since the Boneswarm have been Maelok, Witch Doctor, Swamp Horror, Rask, Shamblers, Sacral Vault, Jaga and Croak Raiders!
Basically it's ok but not great. It is a meatshield that positions around the battlefield to use its two useful abilities - arcing spells and Shield Guarding as needed, and then dying unceremoniously when it's usefulness has been outlived.
Its main redeeming features in this role are ARM 20 and PC 7. Its damage output is pathetic for a heavy at 2xP+S 14 (non reach) and MAT 5. It does have two open fists and STR 11 so should be ok at doing power attacks in the few circumstances were those have any remaining value (ie. throws, occasional arm locks).

I can absolutely see it played with Calaban (which is the main benefit this model brings), since it provides both valuable tools for Calaban and another channel to spend his fury if he gets too much on his feat turn.
You might see it with Jaga, you'll never see it with Rask, and I would also be surprised to see it regularly with Barnabas. With Maelok it has low potential, which would have been significantly increased had this model been Undead (theme list, feat).

Croak Raiders - the best release in the book. The amount of damage these guys can deal at range is just stupid. The Oil Gourd being a scatterable AoE and the debuff lasting a round is especially stupid, and the fact that they AD on top of a pretty independent and accurate 16" threat range which ALSO cause fire is madness.


Lynus & Edrea - where the hell did these come from? Apparently they are supposed to be Pendrake's students, which explains the animosity with Saxon Orrik. This also makes them idiots, since Saxon is the man.
There are two sides to this nitwits - first is the synergy they have with other models via a special action that grants a friendly warrior model a boost on its first attack roll. Note this is a BOOST, not an additional attack die. As such it's not worth that much on warlocks outside a little fury efficiency, so is mostly useful on solos like Alten Ashley, Totem Hunter, Maximus, a Posse member and so on. Not bad, but not great either.
The second thing is the Applied Knowledge ability, which allows them to take a second action each turn IF they made a regular attack during their combat action. Basically this means you will move up, shoot with each of them (they have RNG 10 POW 11 rifles and Ebrea has True Sight, but also only RAT 5) and then either make another shot or use their special actions: for Lynus, that's the attack boost buff and for Edrea that's either Arcane Bolt, Zephyr or Wind Wall (or unit equivalent). You'll need the later two abilities to keep them alive because at 14/12, they will die to strong opinions.
EDIT: ROF 1 weapons = 1 shot each max! Things Applied Knowledge actually allows:
  • Rifle -> melee,
  • melee -> rifle and 
  • melee -> melee
  • Edrea can also go melee/rifle -> arcane bolt
I am thinking they might be ok with Calaban for the boost (useful for even a Croak Hunter), and multiple attacks potential.

I think if Croak Raiders hadn't come out, these guys would have been pretty good as ranged support (potential 4 guns shots is nice, especially if you get to aim) for Gators, and the boosted hit buff can be neat. I probably won't buy them.

Hutchuck (Ogryn Bounty Hunter aka Hordes Gorman) - what a name. Ambush, Take Down, and a solo version of Hog Wild. His main thing (outside those manly Ogrun stats) are his three alchemical grenades - Rust, Brain Damage and Quake. All these are 3" POW 12 AoEs with RAT 6.

Like most Hordes versions of OP things (ie. Thrullg, the Hordes Eyriss), he is significantly more balanced that his Warmachine counterpart:
  • Brain Damage must cause damage for its effect (no casting spells, upkeeping spells or using animi) to trigger, so unlikely unless directly hit.
  • Quake is a 3" AoE, but only triggers on a direct hit.
  • Rust is Rust, -2 ARM to warjacks.
Furthermore, unlike Gorman, he is a medium base with no special defensive tech so can be killed by conventional weapons. Overall I think he is cool, despite not working for Minions and also working for Cygnar & Khador.

Gremlin Swarm - This model is just dumb. Why did this have to exist? Not only does the model itself look like ass, but the rules make me want to stick it up someone else's ass.
Basically it does two things - one is be incorporeal AND stealth while moving between 8" and 14" a turn. This means it is difficult to spell it to death, so you have to either get close or melee it to death with magical weapons, or shoot it with magical stealth ignoring guns. These things are not common outside Cygnar. As such it is awesome at scenario play just by existing.
Second, it fucks with warjacks, based on a random roll and not player decisions. Did we really need more models that specifically make warjacks less rewarding to use, and also grind the game down further?
As a final straw, it doesn't even work for either Minion Pact.
It's not even that good, it just seems like such a pointlessly negative games experience.


I feel this was a decent book with an overall good quality of releases, but not as good as Exigence. The new Gargantuans all look better than the last lot (which isn't hard) and probably make me less angry about their existence as well.
Croak Raiders are very likely to invade every Hordes player's lists at some point, and hopefully nobody ever plays Gremlin Swarms.
If I had to pick a winner and loser for the book (ignoring Croaks), as is customary in the community, I'd put Trolls as winners and either Skorne or Legion as losers. If it weren't for the Blight Bringer, who I feel might finally make infantry-grind Legion a competitive choice, then Legion would be clearly at the bottom.

Best Caster: Doomshaper3
Worst Caster: Zaal2

Best Beast: Blight Bringer
Worst Beast: Battle Boar / Blindwalker

Best Warrior Model/unit: Croak Raiders
Worst Warrior Model/unit: Farrow Warlord

The Cryx "Total BS" award: Gremlin Swarm