I recently made the decision to plug back into Warmachine, and to do so with something completely different than anything I’d played before. The Retribution of Scyrah are somewhat underplayed in the UK, unlike the Cryx and Mercenaries with which I usually occupy my time; they look utterly unlike anything else on the face of Caen; they seem to combine mobility, variety of threat ranges, and resilience, the three things I usually look for in a faction; they offer an aesthetic challenge since I loathe the studio colour-scheme (plain white with a faint glow doesn’t seem to flatter the models much); and, well, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the resurgence of a dying elven race in another game we could mention.
While I’ve been enjoying them, I haven’t exactly done much to forestall the decline of the Iosan race thus far. I was rather expecting this: I have in the past bounced hard off forces with a precise, finicky activation order and a limited capacity to survive in battles of attrition, and from what I’m told, that’s the quintessence of the Retribution right there. There’s also the usual issue with Warmachine, the ‘you’ll lose your first ten games with a new faction’ factor for which, lacking the entitlement complex that seven years’ experience with the Cryx affords, I am much more prepared.
Starter-box wise, I couldn’t get hold of one from my retailer of choice and, besides, having consulted the Oracle, I had an idea of what I wanted in a 15 point list, and it wasn’t “three warjacks”. Bypassing the starter to begin with, I bought in with the following bits and pieces instead.
Kaelyssa, Night’s Whisper
Lady Aiyana and Master Holt
Eiryss, Mage Hunter of Ios
An unorthodox selection? Perhaps, but big units of dudesmen and I have been undergoing a trial separation for a few years now; to start with, I just wanted to plonk fifteen points of dangerous stuff on the table and have some fun with it. Also, I like to shoot at things; I’m generally of the opinion that having guns is better than not having guns. Also also, if I decided that I hated the Retribution, I’d only have painted six models, and I’d have a couple of support pieces for my Mercenaries should I desire their presence.
Five games in, and I’m starting to get a feel for what’s going on here. I’ve had to face…
- the Circle starter box – Kaya the Wildborne, a Feral Warpwolf, and two Arguses (Argii? Argusi?).
I’d say I felt bad about out-pointing it, but Mitch beat me down with it regardless. What I mostly learned from this game is that a) Kaelyssa’s feat ain’t that great against SPD8 heavies who’ll just walk into you and b) Stormfalls are surprisingly good at blowing up light warbeasts provided they can aim and Brutal Shot them.
- a Cygnar force comprising Commander Nemo, Ol’ Rowdy, the predictable Squire, and a unit of Gun Mages with their associated Officer.
I hate Gun Mages. I hate them so much that Mitch actually offered to not use them, but I don’t hate them enough to become the sort of wastrel who refuses to play against things that they think are good. From this game, I learned two things: firstly, Gun Mages pay two points to ignore Kaelyssa’s feat and get the drop on my Stormfalls, and secondly, the Phoenix can’t be trusted to hit DEF12.
Somehow, I still managed to win this one; Nemo had pulled himself forward for an opportunistic Chain Lightning into Rowdy’s back, hoping to bounce it into Eiryss, but my Phoenix had been slightly farther forward and taken the blast on her behalf. Mitch, by way of educating me, suggested that my turn would be “kill Nemo or go home”, and so I had Aiyana Harm him, Holt sink a couple of bullets into him, Eiryss Disrupt him and a Stormfall rather abruptly finish him off. They’re not that bad when they get to aim and their target’s only DEF14.
- the same Cygnar force – Mitch and I went for the best of three.
This time, I learned that focus camping is often Kaelyssa’s only hope of staying alive if she gets cornered, and that – unlike Cryx – the Retribution are often better off not casting spells every turn. I decided to try something different, holding Kaelyssa farther back and sending the Phoenix farther upfield to maybe Combustionise or Riftify some Gun Mages (did I mention I really hate Gun Mages?), using that vast control range to maybe keep her back from the fight for a bit. It didn’t quite go according to plan, especially since the Gun Mages outshot my Stormfalls and Nemo could simply Locomotion Rowdy into combat on Kaelyssa’s feat turn.
That said, I’d managed to keep Eiryss, Aiyana and Holt, and one Stormfall Archer alive, which proved to be enough; Rowdy entered the next Cygnar turn Disrupted and only managed six boxes of damage on Kaelyssa with his initial attacks, and in my follow-up turn Nemo got Harmed, shot a couple of times by Holt, and then Kaelyssa dodged around Rowdy, took a free strike on ARM 21 (shut up, twelve boxes is fine) and then sank two rounds into Nemo to finish him off.
- Pan’s different Cygnar force with Lord Commander Stryker, a Stormclad, a unit of Stormblades, and the Black Thirteenth.
You know those games where you walk away thinking “oh, I should have done that?” This was one of them. It turned into a very tense mid-board show-down, with the Black Thirteenth and Stormfalls more concerned about staying out of each others’ way than really contributing anything to the fight. The Phoenix spent most of the game Disrupted, and the Stormblades found themselves on the wrong end of Holt’s whirlwind of attacks after failing to hit either himself or Aiyana in melee. They did, however, nobble Eiryss, which left me unable to keep Stryker or the Stormclad honest, and Stryker was in the middle of the board, on a hill, with a lane to Kaelyssa, and her feat already used to stall the Stormblades and Stormclad for a turn. Again, it was ‘go big or go home’ – and Stryker had spent all his focus on negotiating around Kaelyssa’s feat and Disrupting the Phoenix, so if I could just hit him, I had a reasonable chance of taking him down.
What I should have done is Harm him, shoot him three times with Kaelyssa and just walk the Phoenix into him for a quick Combustion – being a * Attack means Disruption doesn’t stop it, and it’d give me an effective POW14 and probably a POW12 against his base ARM. I knew he was within 5″ of the Phoenix because he’d have had to be in order to hit it and Disrupt it on Kaelyssa’s feat turn. What I did instead was treat it like a game I still stood a chance of surviving; I failed to hit with Harm, shot him three times with Kaelyssa (one missed) and then parked the Phoenix within melee range of both Stryker and the Stormclad. Stryker didn’t even bother risking the free strike; he just loaded the Stormclad up and had that walk into Kaelyssa for the kill.
- Finally, at the beginning of August, I confronted Shiny’s Khador, running Kommander Sorscha, a Juggernaut, 10 Assault Kommandos, a Greylord Ternion and a Koldun Lord. We also decided to play with a scenario – the one with the three flags along the centre line, the name of which thoroughly escapes me.
From this I learned: a) Shiny was a point over par, which I hadn’t realised until I checked it just now, and b) that sometimes match-ups kill. The Kommandos being immune to my usual means of infantry clearance (Stormfalls choosing to shoot fiery arrows at them, and the Phoenix Combusting all over them) and lurking behind Shield Wall (ARM18 is just high enough to make the Phoenix a bit nervous about Trampling) meant they’d be a bugger to shift from any flag that they chose to occupy, and I wasn’t optimistic about getting Sorscha into range for my usual assassination. I decided to split up a bit, with Aiyana and Holt going for one flank’s flag, Eiryss going for the other, and the Phoenix going for the middle one; if I could build up a decent lead in Control Points I might be able to outlast Shiny long enough to win by scenario.
It didn’t work too well. Misjudging my ranges drastically meant the Stormfalls didn’t get to Brutal Damage any Kommandos during my first turn, or Snipe the Greylords off Shiny’s back line. Sorscha went off to hunt Eiryss herself, and while she spent a turn Disrupted and couldn’t hit the mage hunter in melee, she did manage to chop Eiryss into elf kibble with a free strike when I went for another Disruption turn. Missing with Harm again meant the Phoenix couldn’t realistically sort out the Kommandos, so I sent it to nail the Koldun Lord and tie up the Juggernaut instead, trusting Kaelyssa’s feat, DEF and focus-camped ARM to keep her safe from the Kommandos.
What followed was an ignominious tabling in which the Greylords sprayed Aiyana and Holt into the next world, the Kommandos ignored Kaelyssa and shot up my Stormfalls instead, and Sorscha’s feat immobilised the Phoenix so that no amount of arm damage could stop the Juggernaut 1d6+1’ing its way through the myrmidon one whack at a time. Sorscha was in a somewhat exposed position but undamaged and all DEF-16-ish, and after the formality of a round’s ineffective shooting it was quite clear that this was Shiny’s game.
A passer-by in the last game observed, by way of a hello, that my list was ‘horrible’. Rude bastard, I thought; he might at least have introduced himself! That said, he had a point; while I have a decent amount of assassination tech, I can’t really stand to lose any of it, and I don’t have anything to interpose between the aforementioned tech and the things to which it’s attempting to apply itself. While units still make me play like a moose, some solid infantry are called for in scenario play, and a different ‘caster and ‘jack combination would have been better for chewing through that Khadoran steel. Fortunately, I once again have a list to work towards. Everything on this one is something I’d be interested in taking for a spin at some point; I already have Ravyn on the painting table.