Hot Take: Khador theme drop

After frantically checking War Room for updates every five minutes for the past week or so, the new content that we have been waiting for has finally arrived.  New themes for every model in every faction of the game, and old themes tweaked with the addition of mercenaries.  It’s Christmas come early for Warmachine players.

In Khador, we had both of our new themes spoiled already, and I already did a hot take on the Man-O-War theme, so I’m not going into too much detail on that one.  Suffice it to say that it lets you run a brick of MoW Shocktroopers, and we won’t find out its true potential until we get our new toys sometime in 2018.

Anyways, let’s take a look here, starting with our new Greylord theme…

Wolves of Winter

wolves.pngLet’s get this out of the way first:  Unfortunately, you can’t start the game with upkeeps on your Doom Reavers.  It is a bit of a shame, and does put a damper on the dream of what a Doomie Spam list can do with an upkeep-heavy caster like Strakhov2, but there might still be some game in this theme.  Unfortanately, I’m kind of an axe to face guy, so I don’t have the experience with the Greylord side of Khador to comment with too much expertise on this, but that hasn’t stopped me before.  Let’s see if we can have some fun list-building with this…

List:  Vlad3 is good, right?
Theme:  Wolves of Winter

Vladimir Tzepesci, Great Prince of Umbrey (Vlad3)
– Drago
– Juggy

Fenris
Greylord Forge Seer (free)
Greylord Forge Seer (free)
Koldun Lord (free)

Doom Reaver Swordsmen
Doom Reaver Swordsmen
Greylord Outriders
Greylord Outriders

vlad3-pic-large.pngVlad3 isn’t usually considered a competitive caster, with the general consensus being that he’s not bad, he’s just the third-best Vlad.  Still, there may be something here, at least for a funsies list.  Since you can start with your upkeeps out, Hand of Fate is great on Greylord Outriders because of the sheer amount of extra dice you are chucking with those sprays.  Infernal machine can go on either of your warjacks.  Wind Wall can help protect a unit of Doomies on the advance from getting shot down on the way in, and between Apparition and Dash, your Doomies can threat 14 inches, which according to my math, is legit.  Murdering everything with sprayponies with Hand of Fate and sending in a bunch of Doomies to finish off whatever is left seems fun.  Vlad’s feat can affect the Outriders and Fenris, priming them to strike again after the initial alpha, or retreat off to some annoying position on the flank where they are going to be hard to deal with.  Competitive?  Not sure yet.  Fun?  Well, I’m going to be hitting the painting table…

Theme tweaks

In addition to the new themes, we’ve got a few tweaks to our existing themes.  In general, the big addition to our existing theme forces is the addition of mercenaries.  This is huge for Khador; there are a number of merc solos out there that for a few points, can patch some holes in our lists and fix some struggles we’ve been having lately with certain armies that have been challenging matchups for us (hello, Ghost Fleet and Gremlin Swarms).

There are a few things to note though. First, you can take mercs that have the Partisan (Khador) rule, which means that you can add a unit of Kayazys to your theme force of choice.  Second, Valachev is available as an attachment to a merc unit, so you can make them friendly Faction.

Most curiously, a couple of themes restrict the mercenaries you can take to non-character solos (Winter Guard Kommand) or units (Legion of Steel).  From what I can tell, Khador is the only faction that is faced with this restriction, which makes sense, because you know how all the other factions get when we get nice things.  I’m guessing there must have been some sort of completely broken combination in there, though I haven’t quite figured out what it would have been yet.

The Good

The thing that I am most excited about in this theme drop is the potential to take mercenary units in Winter Guard Kommand, particularly Lady Aiyana & Master Holt.  One of the major weaknesses with WGK which was really showing in a world of Ghost Fleet and Gremlin Swarms was a total lack of magic weapons aside from your caster and Andy, who ideally should be nowhere near combat anyways.  With Aiyana’s ability to make the weapons of a model/unit magical, incorporeal opponents like Gremlin Swarms and Blackbane’s Raiders can be easily countered.  Fortunately, we now have an answer to this…

 

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My Sorscha2 conversion — because Irusk2 wasn’t top-heavy enough of a model

List:  Suck it, Ghost Fleet
Theme:  Winter Guard Kommand

 

Forward Kommander Sorscha
– Spriggan
– Marauder

Kovnik Joe

Winter Guard Rifle Corps
– Rocketeers x3
Winter Guard Rifle Corps
– Rocketeers x3
Winter Guard Infantry
– WGI Officer & Standard (free)
– Rocketeers x3
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (free)

Aiyana & Holt
– Valachev

As you can tell, this list is designed to do one thing and one thing only:  Make Ghost Fleet players cry.  By hot-swapping shatterstorm between the two units of Rifle Corps, you can threaten to RFP from 22″ away (with Desperate Pace).  Since RFPed stuff doesn’t come back, you can shut down the Cryx recursion engine pretty quickly, and you won’t have to worry about Tough if they drop their Bane list.  Spriggan is there to threaten to drop a flare on Denny1 and take away her Stealth, and Aiyana & Holt can hand out magic weapons so you can take out the Wraith Engine and Blackbane’s Raiders.

The Meh

Jaws of the Wolf, the theme that I’ve been using most often, got a bit of a sidegrade.  In addition to the mercs now available in-theme, we are now able to take Yuri the Axe as a free model.  At six points, Yuri was kind of expensive for what he did, and a key linchpin of the Yuri/Manhunters/Kossites package.  Being able to take him for free is going to make that package a little more attractive.

Unfortunately, we lost the ability to deny Advance Deploy to our opponents, trading it instead for denying Ambush.  Right now, this feels like a downgrade because there is a lot more AD out there than Ambush.  While the stock on this may go up as more themes grant ambush to more units, units which may do a lot more damage than our ambushing units (sorry, Kossites)

The Disappointments

There was one big disappointment for me, and that is Assault Kommandos.  They got added to the Winter Guard theme, however they gain no benefits and offer no benefits to the theme, and feel like more of an afterthought than anything.  They just don’t fit in, either thematically, or from a list design perspective.

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Hope you like that shelf…

Honestly, I think they got put in the wrong theme.  Had they been placed in Jaws, you would be able to make some pretty interesting Strakhov1 lists, the sort that I was running before the rise of thememachine.  Right now, the only reason I can possibly think to use them would be if you’re playing Vlad1 and you’re really really worried about cloudwalls.  But even then…ugh…

What else is out there?

Cygnar got their trencher theme, so expect to see Haley3 making a comeback. If only we had some sort of Kommando unit that would be good at Assaulting trenchers… Cryx also got a couple new themes, so that could mix up their usual Ghost Fleet/Dark Host pairing and since they’re the one you have to tech for these days, it could pose new challenges.  Apart from that, I haven’t looked at what all the other factions have gotten and am probably not good enough at this game to understand what it means, but I’m sure the meta will settle out and find some broken-ass theme that is going to dominate for the next couple months.

Conclusions

These changes have been hyped for a while, and it was inevitable that we would find something that wouldn’t live up to the hype and be disappointed.  I will admit to being excited about Assault Kommandos finally having their place only to have them remain on my shelf until they get a theme force or UA or something.  That said, I don’t think it was a bad day for Khador.  Just from the ability to include mercs in our theme forces, we gained a lot and got a lot of difficult matchups fixed.  models like Aiyana & Holt can fill holes in many of our lists and make things that were a challenge for us to deal with previously trivially easy.

I see some salt out there on the Khador facebook group, and to my comrades, I have one thing to say.

This is Khador.  We of the north do not turn green with envy at the luxuries of others.  We are made of tougher stuff than that.  We redouble our efforts and fight harder; we don’t go around crying about things like a bunch of whiny Cygnar players.  There is still tech to be unlocked and future releases to come out, and I’m sure everything will be all right, so long as we have our axes to insert into the faces of those who oppose the motherland.

With this release, it feels like we’re finally in Warmachine Mk.III as intended.  We can use just about every model on the shelf in some way, and I’m sure we will find some fun, powerful lists in this release — as will our opponents!

Paintlog — Mortar Crew, and a year of progress

Khador is a faction blessed with a lot of interesting infantry models, from our stealthy Kayazys and redneck Kossites to our heavily-armoured Iron Fangs and Man-O-War. Many of them exude the strength of the motherland, but there is perhaps none that typifies Khador more than the humble Winter Guard Mortar Crew.

The Winter Guard are Khador’s mass conscript infantry, going into battle with little more than basic armour and mass-produced cheap weapons.  They make up for thiswith their bravery and resilience; Kovnik Jozef Grigorivich can grant them the Tough special rule, and in their theme force, they are willing to sacrifice their very lives for Khador, taking bullets meant for warcasters.  The Mortar Crew, perhaps, typifies the Khadoran attitude towards problem-solving more than any other.  While our engineers haven’t quite perfected an accurate mobile light artillery piece that can reliably score hits, they’ve decided that that doesn’t matter so long as it can deliver a lot of high explosive into the general vicinity of the enemies of the motherland.  And, of course, they have the ubiquitous handaxe, which gives them a plan B against anyone who makes it behind the lines to their position.

With that in mind, I figured it was time to get started on my second Mortar Crew.  This unit consists of two models; the mortar itself, and a second crewman with a telescope who serves as a spotter.  They are the old metal models, so a file helps for cleaning mold lines.  Also, when assembling the mortar, I’ve found that it goes together a bit better if you make a small hill out of green stuff to place the mortar itself on, such that it is elevated slightly above the guy firing it.

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Note the lump of green stuff on the base under the mortar itself

From then on, it was a matter of painting it up in my usual Winter Guard theme.  Grey coats, brass armour, and purple shoulder pads, which various straps, buckles, pouches, and other bits painted in appropriate colours.  The mortar itself was mostly brass and silver, with enough of each that they would complement each other and balance out, and a bit of wood-grain on the frame.

Since this was my second mortar crew, I decided to do a little freehand on the shoulder pad to distinguish it.  For a symbol to distinguish them from their Winter Guard brethren, I borrowed the NATO symbol for a mortar crew., and for this second unit, I freehanded on a roman numeral II and a couple of random shapes that look vaguely like Khadoran runes.

Then, we get to the basing.  I’ve gone with an autumnal theme for most of my army, because I feel like it contrasts the purple of my warjacks, and is a little different than the green grass and trees you see all the time in wargaming.  The first step is applying some texture.  You can use glue and sand for this, but lately I’ve found that I much prefer to use artist mediums with pumice aggregate mixed in with craft paint.  I find it to be easier to sculpt a little to add some variation to the base, but more importantly, it’s a lot less messy and I’m not vacuuming sand out of my apartment for a week.

IMG_1999

Because I put a tree on the base, this means I always have concealment, right?

Give it a wash and drybrush, add a bit of turf and flock, and a couple tufts, and we’re just about done.  The catch is, in this case, I want to go a little further and add a tree to my base.  No problem!  I have some tree armatures from Woodland scenics that just need some cleaning up, priming, and a little paint to make the branch structure of the tree. From then on, it’s just a matter of gluing on some clump foliage, and then dabbing on some washes such as a sepia or an Athonian Camoshade to take the brightness down a bit.

That said, while I like these trees on my models, I realize that that I still have some ways to go on them.  I’m not sure clump foliage quite works at the 28mm-ish scale that games like Warmachine are played at, as it doesn’t quite give the impression of actual leaves. Further, the canopy of this tree ends up being way too thick, not letting even a crack of daylight through in between the leaves.  I will be experimenting more before I do any display-quality models with trees and leaves, but I do think this is fine for now for gaming pieces and to bang out some terrain so that the 40K players don’t make fun of us as much for having tables that look like crap.

My progress…

Even if it isn’t perfect, I still think this Mortar Crew shows a lot of progress.  Here, I’ve got it next to one that I painted over a year ago, while I was still getting into the hobby.  Since then, I’ve learned a lot about basing and highlighting, and have tried to push my tabletop standard higher and higher, and I think the difference between last year’s job, with not much highlighting aside from some dry-brushing and minimal edge-highlighting speaks for itself.  The newer piece just “pops” more, which is a testament to how much difference some highlights can make, even on tabletop pieces.

IMG_1992.JPG

Note the blue lens on the telescope, and the more interesting base work on the new one on the left.

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You can clearly see how the highlights on the body of the mortar on the left give it a little more volume and shape to it than the flat silver on the right; I probably simply gave it a wash and maybe a quick drybrush a year ago, and now, I’m starting with a very dark silver and highlighting up to something brighter.  On the telescopes as well, you can see the difference that the TMM makes.

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Much better highlighting on the brass armour plated and the cloak on the newer version…

On the table…

So, now that I have two Mortar Crews, I have to think of a list to go with them.  They are available in the Winter Guard Kommand theme force along with every other Winter Guard model, so playing in theme is an obvious choice.  As for a caster, plenty of possibilities spring to mind, but there is one in particular that stands out above all others.  It has been a long time, too long in fact, since I have fielded her, but one can only resist the siren’s call that is Kommander Sorscha for so long.

sorschapic.png

Fun fact:  Khadoran wardrobe engineers have found that high heels dig into the surface of snow and ice, preventing soldiers from losing their footing.  Why they’ve only been issued to female soldiers, however, remains a mystery.

Like many Khador players, Kommander Sorscha or Sorscha1 was my first warcaster. She has a number of ways to freeze enemy models, and her Wind Rush spell, which grants her a free full advance, makes her beautifully mobile. Additionally, Fog of War can help push the DEF of your army up just enough to give them the help they need to get up the field.

Between Freezing Grip and her feat, both powerful effects that can freeze entire swaths of an enemy army, it’s no wonder that Sorscha1 gets the nickname “the ice queen.”  Of course, one of the side benefits of having your opponent frozen in a block of ice is that it drops their DEF down to 5, which means that a Mortar Crew, with its effective RAT of 1, can actually hit things! This makes it a great tool for following up on a bunch of frozen infantry, or perhaps getting those last few hit points in on an enemy caster during an assassination attempt.

So, what is in my list?

Theme: Winter Guard Kommand

Kommander Sorscha (Sorscha1)
– Victor

Kovnik Andrei Malakov
– Grolar
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich
Winter Guard Artillery Kapitan

Winter Guard Mortar Crew x2
Winter Guard Infantry with Officer & Standard
Winter Guard Rifle Corps with 3 Rocketeers
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew

Basically, the point of this list is simple — I freeze stuff, and then stuff that normally can’t hit the broad side of a barn actually can.  Both Victor and the Mortar Crews suffer from the inaccurate special rule, which lowers their RAT to an utterly pathetic level.  Sorscha fixes that by freezing her enemies, bringing their DEF down to 5 so they can actually hit things.  With Victor, you can actually have the hilarious situation of watching your enemies get frozen in a block of ice and subsequently burn to death with an incendiary shot.  The Grolar, as well, is a warjack with a really good gun, but with a RAT of 4, it’s hard to actually hit things with it, a problem that Sorscha fixes.

Hmmmmmm… looks like I know what I’m playing on Tuesday…