It’s a challenge, because any abbreviation using Warmachine and Hordes treads dangerously close to sounding like a Warhammer reference; I’m sure this is where that portmanteau I won’t use came from in the first place. I’ma try out WaH, though; the only reference it really calls to mind is Orks yelling, and nobody’s having a bad day if they’re reminded of that.
I’ve continued my solo explorations of WaH with another battlebox game between the Legion (Lylyth the Herald–whom I believe is referred to as mkiiLylyth because pLylyth is a different form of the same lady?–alongside a Carnivean and four Shredders) and Retribution (Kaelyssa with a Griffon, Manticore, and Chimera). Looking at the boxes originally, I was concerned that the forces would thoroughly balance in favor of the Retribution force, because the wee Shredders–while adorable–seemed like they’d have to be balanced down rather than up. By that, I mean that I figured they were designed to eat infantry and possibly solos (which, for the uninitiated, are models which aren’t taken in groups–or Units–but don’t get cool Warjack/Warbeast things…except for the models that do) while folding against proper fightin’ robots.
That could very well be the case, normally. However, the damage on the Ret Jacks isn’t great, so even without using the animus on the Shredder (an animus is a wee spell that an individual Warbeast can cast, and the Shredder’s provides a boost to both defensive stats) they’re usually capable of sticking in combat for at least a round. Crippled stats is a thing, but the way the game played out they didn’t really matter; a free strike absolutely wrecked a marginally damaged Shredder at one point, but the others that died pretty well did so in the context of a single round of fighting. Those lil’ fellers get up ins and chomp, chomp, chomp, and it’s probably the most fun of any of the models we have, and definitely up there against any model in any system I’ve played in terms of overall fun-factor (Protip: Google “fun factor” and prepare to be transported back to the 90’s by a genuinely incredible music video). They appeal to me primarily because Rabid is essentially getting three bonuses (boosted attacks, damage, and 2/3rds charge movement) for the price of one. That’s exciting!
The fields on the Ret ‘Jacks are also fun, and provide a nice conceptual buffer between when you start taking hits and when you start worrying about losing various systems. The Griffon’s heavy-level armor meant he was barely scratched in the course of the game, though that’s partially because I devoted much of my Legion focus to the Manticore. Without any single-wound models to get stomped on, the damage output of the ‘Jacks feels unsatisfying, and having a weapon that contributes only four points to an attack’s damage that feels unsatisfying. I say this recognizing that the primary heavy warbeast for my chosen faction–the Wrastler–has two for his fists. This probably means I should be using more power attacks with the Ret Warjacks instead of relying so heavily on combo attacks; I’m still internalizing the mathematics that would favor one over the other, though, and if I’m hitting things with decent armor it seems I should be doing so with maximal single-shot damage.
Ret won the roll-off, and took the right side of the table. There’s not much terrain on the half of our play table I’m not painting on, but from what I’ve seen and heard there’s not much terrain in WaH. Plus, with both…*sigh*…Warnouns (I don’t get how that’s a thing; it only seems to apply to two of the four key things in the game with War in their noun!) being primarily ranged attackers with the ability to ignore a lot of limitations on their shots, terrain seemed even less critical. I did throw some out–paint pots as low walls, couple larger things to block LoS–but it didn’t come into play often anyway. I spent RetTurn1 positioning my ‘Jacks, and was proud of how I used positioning to keep charge lanes blocked, and ran my Chimera (using Fleet) to set up a strong flank charge for Turn 2. I couldn’t see a way to get any decent spells off, but realized when I sat down to write this that I could have used the Chimera as a vector and probably popped an AoE down to mess up some Shredders. Either way, I did throw out the feat, which largely shut down the utility of the Legion forces; while Lylyth could still shoot, being unchargeable meant with my positioning the Legion couldn’t do anything especially aggressive on its turn.
I moved up with the Legion, buffing most of my Shredders with their animus and spending Lylyth’s fury to armor the Carnivean. On the second Ret turn, the ‘Jacks all closed. I actually remembered to activate the Manticore’s Str boost, which is akin to buying a boost on all your attack damage for the turn; he threw some punches at the Carnivean but wasn’t super effective. The other two ‘Jacks each tied up a Shredder on the right flank, and Kaelyssa scooted that way, popping off shots at Shredders and sopping up focus.
The next Legion turn is where things got real; Lylyth busted out her feat and boosted a bowshot into the Manticore. Once that hit, she was able to throw Parasite onto the ‘Jack without worrying about melee penalties. One of my Shredders frenzied, and I’m not sure I adjudicated it correctly; I’d screwed up in his placement earlier, so he was actively looking behind himself–and I kept that, because I want to train myself to care about how the models are positioned. That meant that the nearest model in line of sight was the Manticore, so I charged it…ate a free strike along the way, which was actually really bad for him. The Shredder on the far right flank chomped into the Chimera, and one of my other Shredders leapt into the Manticore and consumed most of its force field. The other Shredder took a bold run at the exposed Ret Warcaster, landing a really meaty hit despite being smashed badly by a free strike from the Griffon.
The Carnivean proceeded to roll exceptionally well, scrapping the Manticore with enough fury space left to use its template breath weapon on the 2 Shredder/Griffon/Kaelyssa scrum. I was wavering on whether or not to use the attack, as it was almost certain to boil my own fellows but I had a free die due to the feat; when I saw that Spray attacks ignore melee penalties, though, I felt my choice had been made for me. The attack managed to miss one of the Shredders, killed the other one, stripped the shield off of the Griffon, and did significant damage to the enemy Warcaster.
On the third Ret turn, the Chimera telported past the Shredder it was engaging and charged into the Carnivean, while the Griffon took a free strike from the remaining Shredder to slam into the Carnivean’s front. Neither hit him all that badly, though, and I used focus to repair the fields on both. Kaelyssa impressed me with a wild turn of murder, slashing through the Shredder and taking great advantage of her ability to siphon focus from the loaded beast, then shooting the remaining Shredder to eat all of his focus. If she’d hit with the last attack allowed by her pistol’s RoF, I’d have had enough to fire off a magic attack and possibly survived the next turn.
Instead, Lylyth shot her, slapped Parasite on her, shot her again, and freely charged a healed Shredder (who was badly damaged enough that without the heal he’d have been incapable of forcing) to strip the last hit point on the angry elf.
It was an exciting game! There was a ton of back-and-forth, which I’m always surprised that a solo game can provide. Testament to being a latchkey kid and the magic of Reading Rainbow, I suppose. I’m really glad we picked up these two starter boxes, even if neither of the Warcasters suit my ideal play style or aesthetic. They provide an extremely well-balanced combat situation, with either capable of playing beatdown or control in response to the other. I’m well aware I’m still playing base-level WaH, with lots of strategy to learn, far more model types to explore, and many, many more points to put on the table. But I’m having fun in my basement, and how many of us can say that, eh?
- I’m pretty confident I was using Eyeless Sight incorrectly. I had Kaelyssa directly behind her Griffon, and figured Eyeless Sight would ignore any defensive benefits from that, but apparently that’s only good on concealment.
- I’m equally confident I forgot to employ Witch Hound at least once in the game, possibly twice. I don’t know that this mattered all that much, though, because I generally had my ‘Jacks where I felt they needed to be to block charges…moving them forward doesn’t seem like it would have helped.
- Still, with two errors in favor of the Legion, their victory comes under a cloud. A cloud that they can see through, because Eyeless Sight.
- I should have taken more pictures. This is my shame.
- Don’t love the new post-creation setup here. I find it makes tagging/categorizing more difficult, because without the handy list I don’t remember what terms I use for stuff.