What’s up guys!? It’s Trevy the Great here again from Way of the Swan with some more sweet Skorne content for you!
This time we travel to the blasted wastelands of the east where the sprawling cities of the Skorne Empire release new horrors onto western Immoren!
Skorne has been in an interesting position for the last several release cycles; a common analogy used in my playgroup is that of the “tomato soup;” i.e., adding tomatoes to tomato soup doesn’t really add any more flavor or substance to the foodstuff, just makes it more… tomatoey. The analogy is especially perfect in Skorne’s case since they tend to paint all their stuff red. Every new expansion Skorne players cry out as one for a strong answer to massed weapon masters and powerful control effects and at long last, after a long wait and much praying; in this book… they still haven’t really gotten any. Skorne players are learning to enjoy the taste of tomato soup.
Let’s start with Zaal, the Ancestral Advocate; a refreshing divergence from the normal formula of Skorne Warlocks (buff damage a bit, maybe some survivability and speed). Mechanically, he’s an interesting individual; collecting souls from his living Warrior models and using it in turn to buff the survivors via Transference. He can also act as a sort of super-solo, using souls that his troops give up to throw Sunder Spirits and Annihilations around the table, usually with the help of Extollers’ Guidance and Craft Talisman from the Cyclops Shaman or Farrow Bone Grinders. With these buffs and perhaps the help of a timely Righteous Vengeance, Zaal can perform a very strong and long-ranged assassination run.
So far it sounds pretty good, right? A consistent buff to infantry and a powerful assassination combined with some surprising survivability from his Feat and high base ARM together makes a decent package. Unfortunately, most of the fault lies with the models that he’s buffing; Skorne is primarily a battlegroup Faction; they bring some of the strongest heavy Warbeasts in the game to the table with the support to make them sing. On the whole, their infantry is somewhat lacking; Nihilators are reasonably effective but have trouble getting to the fight without dying in droves, Keltarii are survivable and great at jamming but don’t contribute much actual damage and Immortals have some inherent anti-synergy with Zaal’s soul collection (although they do benefit from his Feat) and while Cetrati have interesting applications with him, the other Cataphract disciplines don’t really have the numbers or survivability that he needs. Unfortunately this drawback hampers Zaal’s effectiveness pretty significantly but puts him in an interesting place; any good future releases that Skorne get have the potential to put Zaal in a really good place; strong infantry options or powerful constructs to benefit from his feat will be very beneficial to him.
With Zaal out of the way, let’s move on to one of the coolest releases of Devastation; the terrifying Desert Hydra! When the Hydra’s model was spoiled months ago, there has been endless wild speculation about its abilities; what we got was a huge-based analogue to Legion’s Typhon; a 5-headed monstrosity with the Multiple Heads rule, allowing it to choose between melee or ranged attacks for its initials, even when engaged. With a good P+S (especially when Enrage is applied), the greatest number of initial attacks in the game and ability to turn them into sprays, this beast can squeeze an immense amount of work out of a single activation. In theory; the Hydra can charge in on a heavy ‘jack or ‘beast, take its boosted P+S 20 charge attack, spray 4 times to clear nearby infantry and buy 4 more P+S 20 attacks on its initial target to eliminate them. Or, if you’re feeling particularly ruthless, just bite a single thing 9 times and make sure it’s dead as a doornail. The Hydra’s greatest weakness lies in the short range of its abilities; its sprays only reach 6” meaning that if it charges deep into enemy lines it won’t be able to kill most of the infantry that threaten it. Although it can combine its attacks into a 10” spray, without a decent long-range weapon it has to move into those threat ranges to get its work done and won’t be contributing much until battle is joined. While Snacking and Forced Regeneration help a little to keep this guy on the table, relatively low base defensive stats make it a prime target for fast, hard hitting enemy troops to get their claws into. That said, the Desert Hydra’s high number of base attacks open up some very interesting synergies with Warlocks like Hexeris2 (who allows it to turn kills with its sprays into additional melee attacks via Black Spot) and Xerxis2 (who can use Mobility to get it into the battle and his Feat to buff its accuracy). At the end of the day, the Hydra’s 5 sprays make it an interesting release, but their short range forces it to act as more of a beater, and while it has a lot of attacks its probably not going to out-damage the likes of Tiberion or a Bronzeback Titan, while in turn being far easier to remove than a pair of heavies. If you licked a Desert Hydra I’d be willing to bet they taste like tomatoes.
Now we move onto the disciplined troops of Skorne’s mighty armies! First up for Skorne’s new warrior models is the Extoller Advocate, a unit attachment for Immortals. At first glance the Advocate is super cool; he’s a threat in his own right with Gunfighter and his terrifying eye beam and buffs his troops accuracy and survivability using souls collected by their deaths. Unfortunately, for a unit that already has Vengeance, the necessity for his guys to die for his buffs to go off simply further de-incentivizes the opponent from attacking them early on and requires some skilled play to make effective; not to mention the diminishing returns he gets from buffing his dwindling unit. There are tricks and formations that can be used to mitigate this weakness; using Slingers or Incindiarii to trigger continuous effects on the unit in the hopes of collecting early souls or putting models in threatening positions to force your opponent to trigger Vengeance for you for example, but these aren’t guaranteed to be effective. While the Advocate is an interesting release, I’m not convinced that he goes far enough to help Immortals see the table more often, although he is a strong inclusion in Zaal1’s theme force, which already brings Immortals and lets him start with the souls he needs to get the unit to its target.
Last but certainly not least we have the skilled Praetorian trio; the Legends of Halaak! While Zaal is a different playstyle for Skorne and the Desert Hydra is very interesting release, I’d be willing to bet that this little unit sees the most play out of Skorne’s Devastation releases. On paper they aren’t incredibly exciting; 3 duders with different weapons that all fight in melee pretty hard. Can you smell those tomatoes? What they do have are great defensive stats (15/15 when base to base), an astronomical damage output and some great utility all in a handy 4-point package. While Bagesh is sidestepping around slaying dudes, Cidaar can be triggering Flank for everyone and J’Deth can be smiting dudes into each other. Or the could all just charge one big thing and put a ton of MAT 9, P+S 10-12 3-4d6 attacks into it. All for 4 points! On top of that, their strong defensive stats make them a pain to remove when defensive buffs such as Defender’s Ward (putting them at 17/17 when in Synchronicity), Inviolable Resolve or Xerxis1’s Feat, Total Annihilation are applied. Warlocks such as Makeda1 or 2 can further increase their survivability by keeping them alive with Makeda1’s Feat or Stay Death from Makeda2. All in all an incredibly efficient toolbox unit at an extremely reasonable price point.
At the end of the day Devastation’s Skorne releases failed to change things in a big way for the Faction; while Zaal2 offers a unique playstyle that may be powerful when future releases come around, the other releases largely fit into Skorne’s traditional ethos of high damage output melee threats. That said; the one release in this book that has the biggest impact on Skorne’s game plan I haven’t even touched yet and I’ll get to in more detail when I cover Minions; the humble Croak Raider. A strong ranged game is something Skorne has historically lacked, but with the recent release of Aradus and these little guys, the Faction is assembling a terrifying gunline that may give it the tool it needs to defeat the massed weapon master spams that have plagued it in the past. In the end time will tell, but all in all things seem to be looking up for the proud warriors of the far east.
Are you a Skorne player? What new weapons of war from the Skorne empire are you most excited about?
Remember to check out Way of the Swan for more cool Warmachine/Hordes content?