Theme #2: Weapons of War


We’ll start off article #2 with a confession.  I used to play World of Warcraft.  My main character, Salana, was a shaman on an enhancement build, entirely built for melee combat.  Healing was for healing her, spells were for buffing her or close range damaging her enemy.  Gear?  As much combat mail as she could get her hands on, and maces. 

Why maces?  She could use daggers, staffs, axes and maces, and 2 handed varieties of both.  She was a dual wielding build, so 2 handed weapons were out, but that left plenty of other weapons in the dagger and axe department.  Yet, for most of a year Salana wielded almost nothing but hammers and clubs.  Why?  2 reasons really, look, and attitude. 

Maces were the first weapons made by man (or in her case, Troll).  They are simple, straight forward, and brutally effective.  In a word, they are primal.  The look was strong, that of a Troll charging at you full tilt with a club or hammer in each hand.  She didn’t care where she hit you, because every swing was going to break something.  Her opponents never had a clean death.  A rogue might put a knife neatly in your heart or quietly suffocate you.  Salana was going to beat you into something resembling frito pie.  For a further comparison, I direct you to the movie Troy.  Achilles is a rogue.  Salana was Ajax (The Greater).

So why do I go on talking about Warcraft in this clearly Warmachine/Hordes blog?  Simple, to illustrate a point:  We play wargames.  Weapons, more then anything else, define a model in this setting. 

With that, I welcome you to the rundown of Theme #2, Weapons of War. 

Weapons of War is an incredibly simple theme to build off of, and incredibly difficult at the same time.  It is incredibly easy to build this theme list because the criteria are so clear.  There is no grey area that some of the other themes have.  There is no interpretation on how the fluff influences a warcaster themed army.  Either a model has the required weapon, or it does not. 

Weapons of War armies are built on 1 of 2 simple requirements. 

1a. Visual Weapons – Chose a weapon or combination of weapons, every model in this army must carry that one or all of the chosen weapons.

1b. Weapon Rules – Chose one or two weapon abilities or statistics.  Every model in the army must have a weapon bearing that ability. 

Simple right?  Well these simple requirements require religious adherence to work from a theme perspective.  Because of this, I add requirement 2.

2. Exceptions – No more then 2 models (models not units) within your army are allowed to deviate from the theme.  The exception to this rule is non-character models that fill a support role (mechanics, choir, arcanists, vassals, nechrotechs, etc…)

Requirement 2 is what makes this theme difficult.  You cannot throw everything you want into the army.  You want a rifle themed Cygnarian army?  No gun mages, no Black 13th, no Storm anything, no sword knights, you get the picture.  Those 2 exceptions are precious, so you may want to save them for Stryker and ‘Ol Rowdy, or Nemo and the Thunder Head, or a Stormclad and Hammersmith for Kraye.  More then most themes, sticking to this one is going to force you to make some hard choices. 

The reward is an army that looks fantastic on the table top.  Imagine your opponent lays down his Cygnar army.  He has a unit of rangers, a full unit of long gunners, a minimum unit of storm lances, a unit of mechanics, a full unit of sword knights with UA, a pair of ranged warjacks, thorn, epic Haley, and the obligatory squire, Strangeways and Journeyman.  An effective army no doubt, but it has no unified visual theme (except the paint scheme).  You, in turn, lay down your two handed weapon themed Troll army (any weapon, as long as it’s two handed).  He’s staring down the barrel of 2 full units of fennblades, 2 axers, a troll hero, an earthborn dire troll (exception 1), a fell caller (exception 2), whelps (support) and a Kriel Stone bearer (support) and epic Madrak. 

This is a unified, intimidating army you just put on the table.  It’s unified not only in its paint scheme, but in the fact that all combat models have big swords and axes.  These things are so big they need two hands to hold them!  Imagine what those things will do to your opponents spread out selection of units.  What’s more, those single exceptions (such as a powerful warbeast) stand out even more.  They truly become centerpieces here.  Believe it or not, the visual strike of this army can be pretty intimidating.  Watch at tournaments, the armies that look great and unified are often those people notice and worry the most about playing. 

It must also be mention that this is a theme that lends itself very well to duplicate units.  In the Troll example above, there is only one unit that can hit the table under this theme.  No Fennblades?  No Infantry.  Fill up on them or don’t take them.  Duplicating units might be viewed by some as spam (a dangerous term for sure) but with such a limited selection you have more then traded off. 

So, let’s get on to some examples.  We have 2 this time, an example of 1a and an example of 1b.  Our factions are Skorne and Protectorate of Menoth respectively.  35 point lists for each, let’s get cracking!

“Come back with your shield, or on it” – Spartan Proverb

Theme: 2 (Weapons of War) Visual Weapons
Faction: Skorne
Warcaster: TBD (has to abide by the theme this time)
Points: 35 pts

Step 1: Spear and Shield.  Skorne do this theme very nicely, and there is a strong Greek influence here (the hoplite style of combat). 

This gives us access to the following units:

  • Cyclops Brute
  • Titan Sentry (to be released, but NQ mentions PC 9 for this model)
  • Cataphract Cetrati
  • Paingiver Beast Handlers (support unit)
  • Praetorian Ferox (mounted, but those are spears and shields I see)
  • Praetorian Karax
  • Agonizer (support model)
  • Tyrant Commander and Standard (The Tyrant has only half the weapon combo and is an exception.  The Standard counts as a support model)
  • Extoller Soulward (support model)
  • Tyrant Rhadeim

 

Step 2: No warlocks in the Skorne Army are armed in this manner, so the warlock will be one of our exception models.  Our other can be either a solo (Ancestral Guardian, Void Spirit, Master Tormenter), or a warbeast (any of those not listed), or Tyrant Commander and Standard.

The list:
  • Tyrant Xerxis +5
  • Cyclops Brute -5
  • Titan Sentry -9
  • Cataphract Cetrati (4) -8  
  • Cataphract Cetrati (4) -8  
  • Praetorian Ferox (3) -7
  • Tyrant Commander and Standard -3
35/35 points

That’s our first army.  Every thing has Shields and Spears with the exception of Xerxis (exception 1), the Tyrant Commander (exception 2), and the Standard (support).  The army as a whole has this massive feel of immovable object.  It’s going to play in a brick style with small numbers, so watch out for flank attacks.  The army is built like a tank, and has two distinct parts, themselves representative of the weapon theme.  You have the shield (the Cetrati), and the Spear (Xerxis, the Ferox, the beasts and the Tyrant).  Is it optimal?  No, but damn does it look nice on the table. 

How it looks:

As I said above, this army looks like an immovable object.  It’s going to hit the table looking strong, feeling strong, but feeling slow.  The army could best be compared to a big prickly rock.  A solid mass of armor and shields backed up by commanders and beasts is going to be inexorably making its way to the enemy bristling with spears for fighting and killing.  One small element of the army is going to be bouncing around the flanks, keeping them safe and looking for targets of opportunity.  This is also a very heavily armored army (very little skin, lots of armor on all models).  It’s going to look very good in a bold, dark color scheme.  Picture these models with a dark under cloth, a strong deeply colored armor and a high contrast trim color.  Black under cloth, blue armor, and bone trim would look great. 

How it plays:

The immovable object theme continues here as well.  Make no mistake; with the exception of its vanguard this army is slow.  Not slow naturally (most things are SPD 5), but slow because it’s going to always want to be in shield wall.  The models that don’t will want to be behind the shield wall.  This is mitigated somewhat by Xerxis and the Tyrant Commander.  These models are liberally handing out pathfinder or speedier advances every turn.  Further more, though the army forms a brick, it can exhibit surprising speed on the turn the brick comes apart. 

Formation wise, as you advance up the field the two units of Cetrati should form up side by side.  The Tyrant Commander and Sentry should be behind one line, and Xerxis and the Brute should be behind the other (with Xerxis towards the center).  The Ferox will go off to one side, playing the role of outriders.  They should get defenders ward from Xerxis first turn as this spell will make them extremely hard to kill off (DEF 15 ARM 19, ouch!) 

If you think you will be safe, everything should run on the first turn.  If not, Xerxis and the Commander hand out 2″ movement to the Cetrati, who then go into shield wall and advance.  Normally strategies like this can cause your support to fall behind and cause activation issues.  With Martial Discipline, however, Xerxis and the Commander can walk right through the lines, and the lines through them.  Awesome.  This shield wall advance continues until the enemy is in range.  As you advance Xerxis should be keeping Inhospitable Ground up to hold charges in check

Once you are in charge range (or even better when he charges your Cetrati and fails), it’s time to strike with a one-two hit.  The Critical Cetrati unit should have Fury cast on them, and all the infantry should charge.  The aim here is two fold: 1. Kill as many of his troops that you can.   2. Tie up the rest in melee.  Xerxis should also use his feat this turn; it will let your troops hill hard targets that might threaten him, and will also give them an armor boost from defensive line so that you can survive the counter attack. 

Though your opponent will now attack you, a lot of your stuff should survive.  Everything has high armor, everything has damage boxes. 

The next turn (or few turns) are the killing turns.  Your troops should go into shield wall, gaining even more resilience, and continuing to advance and attack.  Movement or pathfinder should be handed out as needed, but the goal here is to grind a path towards the enemy warcaster and kill him.  If you have to beat your way through his whole army to do this, so be it. 

Make no mistake, this is an attrition army, and is not the typical assassination game that people play.  You aren’t going to pull of crazy threat assassinations.  You are however going to inexorably advance towards your opponent and grab him by the neck.  He’s going to hit you, but you’re going to hit back harder.  In the end, you can weather the punches and he can’t.  You’re going to use your shield to weather his assault, and your spear to thrust through his heart. 

*           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” – Unknown Proverb

Theme: 2 (Weapons of War) Weapon Rules
Faction: Protectorate of Menoth
Warcaster: TBD (has to abide by the theme this time)
Points: 35 pts

Step 1: AOEs and Sprays – All models must have one attack (including spell) with an AOE or spray effect   

This gives us access to the following units:

  • Feora, Priestess of the Flame
  • Feora, Protector of the Flame
  • High Exemplar Kreoss
  • Grand Exemplar Kreoss
  • Hierarch Severius
  • Harbinger of Menoth
  • High Executioner Reznik
  • Redeemer Light Warjack
  • Repenter Light warjack
  • Vanquisher Heavy Warjack
  • Holy Zealots (The Monolith Bearer counts as support)
  • Flameguard Cleansers
  • Deliverers
  • Deliverer Sunburst Crew
  • Reclaimers ( support)
  • Choir (support)
  • Vassals of Menoth (support)
  • Vassal Mechanics (support)
  • Wracks (support)
  • Hierophant (support)

 

Step 2: We have plenty of warcasters that fit with an army like this, but that is balanced by relatively few troops and warjacks.  What’s more, we have no dedicated melee troops that fill this requirement.  This theme pick really shows the limitations that you can be under with certain themes.  It’s a cool theme no doubt, but it is very far outside the normal Menoth playstyle.  This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the particulars of the battle itself.

The list:
  • Feora, Protector of the Flame +6
  • Reckoner (Bonded) – 8
  • Repenter – 4
  • Repenter – 4
  • Repenter – 4
  • Repenter – 4
  • Holy Zealots (10) – 6
  • –          Monolith Bearer – 2
  • Choir (6) – 3
  • Vassal of Menoth – 2
  • Vassal of Menoth – 2
  • Vassal Mechanic – 1
  • Wracks – 1
 35/35 points

 

 What we end up with is a variant on a “competitive” Epic Feora list. Our one execption model is the Reckoner, which is bonded to Epic Feora for the fire and extra focus.  The meat of this list is filled with an insane core of fiery ranged murder.  Zealots, backed up by 4 (count ’em) Repenters.  The support rounds out this list.  We find the necessary choir, 2 Vassals, a Mechanic and a set of wracks.  As a variant, one Vassal can be replaced with a combat solo like a Paladin, Monk or Errant Seneschal (or even a mercenary).  This replacement will most likely be the second exception model.   

How it looks:

 This is a very striking list on the table.  Make no doubt, your opponent is going to see a lot of warjacks across the table and he will be scared, more so with the bomb squad coming up this middle.  There is a lot of redundancy in a list like this, and Feora and the Reckoner stand out strikingly in the middle of it all. 

For colors, this army can go with any of them.  What is important is that the army should look worn in.  The army should have lots of dark leathers for cloth, lots of burn marks, lots of battle damage. 

How it plays:

 This list plays simply: move forward, bomb and flame everything in site.  You’ll hit the enemy, because if you try you can cover half the battlefield in templates.  If at the start of a turn you should find yourself with a good assassination run, feat, and send in Feora or the Reckoner. 

This list has some very definite strengths and weaknesses but is highly flexible on the table.  I will not go into a turn by turn here, because this list is so adaptable you can safely go to battle with a little a plan as “kill that stuff”. 

The strengths of this list are in the bombs and AOEs, especially with Epic Feora around.  With 4 Repenters, it’s going to be very hard for your opponent to stop you from spraying.  Backed up by the choir these sprays are POW 14 and RAT 7 (which ignores most bonuses).  Add in the Vassals and 2 more sprays can come out.  Add in Epic Feora and the Repenters can advance 7 inches before spraying (Total spray range of 15”).  Very strong.  The other elements of this list can be used to support the sprays.  Zealots can be used to clear light infantry off of your jacks by targeting the engaged troops and letting the bombs scatter.  Zealots are also a great way to direct sprays, and if hit while under greater destiny, can provide more fire for Feora.  The Reckoner fills the role of a kill piece in this list.  He should be eyeing targets of opportunity, pinging solos, and bashing heavy jacks while he waits for a line to the caster. 

You’ve noticed now that this is a ranged oriented list, and there are downsides to that.  Things that hurt range will hurt this list.  This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that you don’t care about a lot of the things that hurt range in this list (cover, concealment, stealth), but beware of things that are immune to blast damage as they can give you a hard time.  Against targets with fire immunity, it’s time to wade into combat.  The Repenters and Zealots can actually excel here, with long charges, and high power attacks (Repenters with Choir, Zealots with Ignite and Prayers).  They will have trouble hitting the high defense models, but should be able to manage against most threats

This is a radical list no doubt, and sure to throw your opponents for a loop.  Just remember, plan your turns ahead of time, be flexible, and always look for openings.

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