[Road to SmogCon] List Review and Game Reports!

After a poor showing at the Winter Warmup and a lukewarm finish to the Clapham Wargamers’ Guild league (the latter due to ill health and parlous finances), it’s time to have a look at my Retribution; what I have, how it’s done, and how it might be expanded in future.

First up, a reminder of the list:

[random warcaster] – pool comprises Garryth, Ravyn, Ossyran, Rahn and Kaelyssa
– Phoenix
– Sylys Wyshnylarr

10 Dawnguard Invictors + Officer & Standard
10 Houseguard Halberdiers + Officer & Standard + Soulless Escort
Stormfall Archers

Arcanist

The Casters

Garryth I have only used once (damn that not-getting-to-club-ness) and botched a few rules in that game. Nonetheless, I did manage to learn a few things; Garryth demands to be played forward, and it’s probably worth moving him into key (i.e. Dominatable) areas and camping focus unless there’s a very good reason not to do that.

Rahn I have also only used once (ditto) and while I misplayed the game, I did feel that he was able to cut the mustard without a swarm of Battle Mages backing him up. There’s a lot he can do on his feat turn in and of himself, with Sylys and a resilient arc node and an Arcanist to place the latter where it needs to be.

Ravyn and I have a complex relationship, though we’re on our third or fourth date now, which is an improvement on my partnerships with either of the chaps. In both the two league games, Ravyn did a lot without doing a lot; placing down Veils of Mists to protect me and help me reposition, buffin’ the shootin’ like it’s goin’ out of fashion, and threatening to murder everything with Vortex of Destruction even though she never actually touched anyone with the sharp end of Hellebore. I’ve seen her jump out and butcher half a unit at the end of a game, but I think she’s more subtle than I’ve been giving her credit for being.

Ossyran I am very comfortable with, although I’m still settling into the niceties of his rules after one loss and two wins. I think he’s the caster most suited to my collection; the Quickened Halberdiers, Shatter Stormed Invictors and Admonitioned Phoenix are devices which I’m comfortable with deploying (although I do need to speed up the resolution of AOE attacks, they’re such a flippin’ time sink – I miss just saying “Purge, POW12 auto hit, take it off or take Corrosion” and having that be my clearance strategy).

And finally, there’s Kaelyssa… who I can’t figure out like I can either of the 6-focus casters in the middle. She and Garryth are in an awkward “does this, does that, but where’s the win button?” pickle and if either of them turn out to be my dud for SmogCon I won’t be too sad (though I’ll cry tears of blood if I have to leave Ossyran out). I’ve won games with her, but mostly through accidental stuff like good matchups and fluke hits from Halberdiers.

The odd duck in the room has proven to be new arrival Issyria, who… well, I’ll talk though her in her own post, since I am very conflicted. Suffice to say that I may try and grab her before or even at SmogCon and might run her through Scalpel as the ultimate learning process. We shall see.

The Battlegroup and Arcanist

The Phoenix has proved to be an excellent toolbox as single ‘jacks go, although even with the Arcanist it’s struggled to take down other heavies (four straight-dice rolls could be enough but have often ended up failing me). The two things I’m still struggling with remembering are the gun (although I have fired it a few times now!) and power attacks, especially for slamming something into a key target and then arcing a spell into it.

Talking of the Arcanist, I concede that he has definitely made the list run more smoothly, even if it’s just been providing the focus for the Phoenix to run or boost a gunshot, although he has frequently found himself left behind if it’s had an ambitious turn. I almost wonder if two of them, one running and the other activating, might not guarantee that one’s in the right place at the right time, and whether that might not be a better buy than the Soulless I don’t really know how to use.

Sylys, meanwhile, is just always always always useful; there isn’t a single caster I’ve run with who hasn’t appreciated the free upkeep spell and the extra efficiency from Arcane Secrets. Best two points I’ve ever spent. The hard part would be choosing which caster to run without him in a Character-restricted environment.

The Units

The Halberdiers have rapidly become my favourite infantry unit – they have everything they need to be good chaff and with their unit attachment they become quite a serious threat even off the charge. I’ve had one or two issues with them, though. Deep-deploying clusters of Halberdiers and support pieces rapidly become AOE bait, and a few blasts on Halberdiers have clipped high-DEF stuff sheltering among them, and it’s occasionally been difficult working out whether to fan them out (to control lanes with their Reach and have the depth to charge the rearmost ones into whatever engages or murders the front ones) or cluster them up (to ensure high ARM engaging things that I want engaged and get mileage out of Team Effort).

I’m somewhat less enamoured of the Invictors. In principle, they’re brilliant; in practice, I’ve had trouble making them work. They’re slow, they have middling range, they tend to get snarled up with the Stormfalls and rear Halberdiers, creating big clusters of AOE or Trample bait. They may work better as a flanking force, with the Phoenix deployed centrally to support them with spells and Flank (or for them to help the Phoenix with Flank charges to disengage it) but then I worry that their lack of SPD will betray them; not all my casters can necessarily get them moving. I haven’t also been able to get much legwork out of Extended Fire; either they’ve lacked sufficient targets for it to be worth using or I’ve been running them as a flank or second line unit, waiting for a kill-shot that never comes.

The Stormfall Archers, though, them’s brilliant. Well. Not quite brilliant. Brilliant would involve them hitting reliably; standing still and Sniping’s pretty good but if they want to use either of their fancy shot types they often have to move into range, and RAT 5 just doesn’t cut sufficient mustard a lot of the time. I’m also having trouble with placing them; they occupy the same sort of range band as the Invictors and so they want to be in the same space a lot of the time. I’ll have to experiment with flanking the Archers, sending them out on their own, or with co-ordinating the two units across the battle-line rather than matching them up 1:1 against particular targets.

The Soulless, meanwhile, has seen one game and done next to nothing in it. I’m still thinking about which unit I want him in, or whether to just bite the bullet and take a second Arcanist instead. Putting him in the Halberdiers will help with clearing upkeep nonsense off them, but they tend to be so close to the enemy that -5″ on the range of enemy spells isn’t really that big a deal. Putting him in the Invictors might help them continue performing (or underperforming) but it leaves the Halberdiers prone to any Crippling Grasp that comes their way. I ‘unno.

The Future

I already own a Vyre heavy myrmidon chassis, which is going to be a Banshee/Sphinx magnetised wonderbunny as soon as I can find my sodding magnets. Commentary on the Banshee will be reserved for when I haven’t denied myself an assassination opportunity with it (by slamming the target out of range of my entire army), lost its primary weapon to a free strike which it wouldn’t have taken if I’d just been patient and trampled instead of trying for a charge, or lost it turn one to a Colossal focusing all its pernicious attentions on the poor thing.

Having watched some far better players at work during the Winter Warmup, I conclude that I need to be getting my buns into the scenario control zones sooner, especially if not running Ossyran. What’s needed is something that Advance Deploys, is quite hard to wipe out, and can ideally put some threat out on turn one. Some species of Mage Hunter, in other words, and I can only really afford/be bothered to paint one unit. That means Strike Force or Infiltrators, with Commander Eiryss as an option for either or the Officer for the Strike Force. I currently lean toward the Strike Force; they have two Unit Attachment options and thus can be fielded as Advance Deployed, Pathfinding shooters in two lists at tournament level, and I generally like my Retribution units to have guns rather than not have them (the Halberdiers are an honourable exception because they’re just so damn pretty).

The Houseguard Thane would also help matters in that regard. As mentioned in the previous post, I’ve evaluated him purely on the obvious synergy (with the Riflemen) and not on the ramifications of scenario play (a 14″ run or 11″ Shield Wall with most casters, jumping to an obscene 18″ and 13″ with Ossyran, plus Fearlessness, plus another gun that’s not FA:C). That was a mistake. I’m also seeing more and more the viability of solos in scenario play; while a unit needs to have half its strength in the zone (thus affecting the wide footprint and base for threat projection that makes infantry good in this game), a solo just needs to plant its own base therein, and the Thane’s essentially supportive nature means he can probably be parked on a flag and left to his own devices provided a Halberdier’s within his CMD range.

Solos also make me think thoughts about Battle Mages. I could go for the unit here, but truth be told I’m more into a handful of solos; two Magisters and two Artificers. For starters, the above comments about solos seem perfectly suited to midfield support pieces like Battle Mages; for mains, I need something else for Rahn’s feat turn besides the man himself; for pudding, oh tasty tasty pudding, I’m very tempted indeed by Rahn’s No Quarter Theme Force, “Fires From On High”, for 50 point games. Advance Deployment on my slow Stormfalls, Sylys and Houseguard Halberdiers in-theme, a discount on the Phoenix and, crucially, a requirement to take something I’ve been looking at for a while.

Hyperion. Yes, I’m looking at the eighty pound eighteen point Colossal and thinking “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. There’s also my oft-noted difficulty with large numbers of actors; sinking 20% of the available points into one model should help me with managing the amount of stuff on the board. There’s the imminent emergence of Issyria, who is (as we shall see, and as has been said) pretty much tailor-made for Hyperion. There’s also the small matter that I could continue my Warcraft-themed aesthetic by painting it up as the Dark Animus. I don’t usually go much on big, expensive centrepiece models, but if it were to see play in every 50 point game and help me overcome the difficulties I have in playing such games (“here’s 35 points of stuff, which I know I can handle, plus Hyperion”)… that might actually be worth the investment.

At the moment, I’ve set Hyperion as my pledge reward for keeping all my Nerd Year’s Resolutions. Some of these are, typically, under negotiation, mostly the ones that involve buying or doing new stuff rather than the ones that are actual restrictions. At the moment, here’s the pledge-list:

  1. I will start up and run an in-house WFRP game which will run for at least six sessions.
  2. I will build/repair and paint/restore at least 2400 points of Vampire Counts, with at least 500 points of totally new stuff.
  3. I will build a viable Good force and Moria battlefield for the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, and make Hark blog about them.
  4. I will paint and base a 50 point Retribution army by the end of March, and then purchase no more.
  5. I will lay hands on two starter sets plus kit for Freebooter’s Fate and run at least four demonstration games.
  6. I will not transfer more than two WoW characters during the entire year.
  7. I may build new Magic decks but I will not buy new Magic decks; they must be based on cards within the collection or obtained through drafts/boosters.
  8. I will do all of this on a budget of no more than £300, plus whatever is earned from selling unwanted goods.

Stand by all that and I can buy Hyperion at the end of the year. WFRP might stand for Warhammer Fantasy Role Play or Weird Fantasy Role Playing, depending on how ambitious I’m feeling; the Lord of the Rings might be nudged sideways and be called ‘Hark’s responsibility’. About time one of my co-authors did something around here.

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

One thought on “[Road to SmogCon] List Review and Game Reports!”

  1. Hyperion is the only collossal I’ve played so far (really not played enough in the last 18 months), and it was paired with Rahn. His plan was “run the big thing onto the objective, with Polarity Shield, then bomb the caster with the ‘shove’ spell until they’re knocked down, then shoot them with Hyperion”. Worked pretty well. And that guy has two of the accursed things.

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