Long-term readers may have received the impression that I am not very good at using units in Warmachine (or Hordes for that matter). This is blatantly and horribly true. It’s something to do with the way in which they work; each model activating, moving, attacking and existing individually is a bit taxing to someone who cut their teeth on the “just roll for all of ’em” approach of WFB and post-second-edition 40K. That they don’t have to shackle one another within 2″ but are instead free to move around within a circle of diameter usually between 16″ and 20″ which moves with one key model only adds to the brain-fatigue, as does the presence of two or three such units in the successful Warmachine army, which is the ultimate cake-taker.
And yet… I’ve been doing all right with the Retribution, so far, with one unit of ten, one of six, one of four and one of two angry elves making their appearance in my 25 point list.
Partly it’s down to the rules on the units. The Houseguard Halberdiers, for instance, have Shield Wall and Combined Melee Attack, which encourages them to bunch up into little tight-knit groups of three or four, moving and attacking together. They also, crucially, have Ranked Attack, which eliminates many of the cludge-up problems I usually experience with units; the rest of my army shoots and consequently can pretend the Houseguard aren’t there. The Dawnguard Invictors have a similar principle; Defensive Line jumps them from ARM 15 to ARM 17 if two of them are standing together, and two of them standing together are pumping out the effective RAT 8 POW 12 Combined Ranged Attacks that I’ve been finding so effective of late. Aiyana and Holt tend to stand next to each other in order for Ayisla’s Veil to do its thing and make them both Stealthy. Only the Stormfall Archers are actually individual actors: the rest of my units are pairs or small groups, such that a unit of ten models might comprise five or fewer actual actors, since models will tow others after them to maintain Shield Wall or Defensive Line, or to share targets for Combined Attacks.
Partly it’s my sense of what the army should be doing. The Houseguard are chaff which occasionally charge to clear routes or tie up enemies; their activation is generally “run and fan out” in the first turn, then “close in and Shield Wall” in the second, then “charge” in the third. The Stormfall Archers like to close the distance so they can pick more fun things than just Snipe; their activation is usually run on turn one, move and shoot or aim and shoot on turn two, aim and shoot on turn three and thereafter. Only the Dawnguard are complicated and even they are basically moving and shooting or aiming and shooting until lanes are clear for them to charge. Everything has a job to do and does it.
Partly it’s that the actual games I’ve played have suggested roles for the infantry.
Against Skorne, in a No Man’s Land mission, the infantry were necessary to keep those marauding Titans at bay. By maintaining some depth between the Halberdiers and Dawnguard, I could ensure that any Trampling Titan would get free-struck and Dawnguard-charged into ineffectiveness; by keeping the Halberdiers in tight knots I could back-stop them against slams and prevent the Titans ploughing into my lines that way. That the early push with the Halberdiers left one in charge range of Hexeris to actually seal a game was sheer blind luck and not something which I planned for or deserved at all, but still!
Against Khador, meanwhile, the infantry’s job was to contest the Mosh Pit scenario area, and create overlapping threat ranges through which it’d be tricky for him to advance his Demo Corps without, again, entering Free Strike City. I don’t know what possessed me to bunch them up in deployment – it made them spray-bait for the fully armed and operational Winter Guard Death Star – but their acceptable ARM kept them going and they did conveniently block Sorscha’s Line of Sight to the Stormfall Archers and Ravyn, on whom I was relying to actually eliminate those Khadoran infantry and claim the Pit.
For someone who dislikes infantry, I’m actually finding them easier going than the warjacks. I’ve been finding that the potential of the Retribution ‘jacks isn’t quite met by their actual impact; not that they’re bad, just that I seldom have much to do with them other than move, pot-shot, and put them somewhere where they’ll draw attention by looking scary. Perhaps I’ll review the House Shyeel heavy chassis next week?