Hydra, as a format, could be tailor-made for a player like me who prefers small games, doesn’t have the disposable income for two or three lists’ worth of stuff, and is a long-term believer in the whole ‘run the same good stuff with a different caster and see how much the game changes’ approach to Warmachine.
It demands a single 35 point list, assuming that 5 warjack points are available, and five different warcasters, to whom numbers are assigned. At the top of each round, the caster choice is randomised; if a four is rolled, everyone in that round uses their number four caster. It’s a four-round event, so there’ll be one caster you just don’t get to use. This is not only within lunging distance for me, but the kind of scale toward which I’d be working anyway; the list suggested by Capture and Control as a decent ‘starter’ force happens to include a whole bunch of things I think are good.
The list features Dawnguard Invictors and a Griffin for solid Flank-tastic fun; the ‘jack of all trades Phoenix (although mine seems rather lacklustre, maybe because I don’t at present own an Arcanist, maybe because it’s having to take point in my games, maybe because I keep forgetting that it has a sodding gun); the cheap Houseguard Halberdiers who provide one-way see-through chaff; and the potentially-devastating-if-they-ever-hit-anything Stormfall Archers.
There are, however, problems.
One: that list has six warjack points, not five, and I’m reluctant to just chuck out the Arcanist (that little sod is needed to make the Retribution heavies do anything worth doing). I’m also very much aware that some of the warcasters I’ll be running would really, really benefit from having Sylys Wyshnalyrr around, for the extra range on the spells and the free upkeep and the help with getting those Arcantrik Bolts, Strangleholds and Death Sentences off.
Two: that list doesn’t use everything I already own, and it includes a couple of high-cost low-volume pay-for-rules options in the form of the Unit Attachments. They’re certainly good, and I’d like to have them, but money is not abundant and if I can get the list ticking with stuff I own rather than stuff I’d have to buy, I’ll be in a generally more comfortable position.
The simplest way to get to 35 points is just to drop the Halberdiers down to minimum size, freeing up 3 points – one for the rogue warjack point and two for Sylys. I’m not sure that an eight-man chaff unit is really a good chaff unit, though, and I’m also not sure I want to buy ten Halberdiers and only field six. Does anyone else miss the days when Privateer Press sold minimum-sized units? If I wanted a maxed-out unit I’d just buy two boxes – two minimum or one maximum, problem solved, no need for blisters.
Other options include chucking the Unit Attachments (frees up four points and a lot of cash – maybe a Soulless Escort for somebody, or a second Arcanist to get both the ‘jacks swinging harder), or downgrading the Phoenix to a slightly cheaper heavy.
This last has a certain appeal – the Phoenix is excellent but I struggle to get the most out of mine, possibly because I don’t have other pieces to do the heavy hitting but possibly because the gun and the arc node and the decent melee weapon and the Combustion are a few too many options for me. The thought occurs that with Sylys in the list, the arc node may not even be essential. With extra range on the non-channelled spells, the casters could potentially operate closer to the front lines; most of them have some sort of weapon or ability which encourages being played up-front, too. I used to play Epic Magnus that way and blimey, it was fun getting to use stuff other than focus!
The other options with the kit I’ve built are the Manticore (sufficiently punchy to not need the Arcanist, and could be fielded with Aiyana and Holt or both UAs if I can afford them, but a right old focus hog) or the Hydra (more economical in terms of focus, could be fielded with Eiryss or an Arcanist and one UA if I can afford them).
Decisions, decisions. At the moment, here’s how it’s shaking down.
- [House Shyeel heavy of some sort]
- Sylys Wyshnylarr
Full Dawnguard Invictors / Nyss Hunters (always an option, and could serve in other faction contexts)
Full Houseguard Halberdiers
PLUS – exact choice dependent on cash and points available
Aiyana and Holt
Unit Attachments for Invictors and/or Halberdiers
Eiryss + Arcanist