Ranking the top three Field Marshal abilities in Warmachine and Hordes.
Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War, with a new series of articles on Warmachine and Hordes that examines the “Best of the Best” attributes across all models and factions. We’ll examine the top Feats, Spells, Abilities, Weapons, Stat Lines, Damage Grids, and anything else that appears on model entries in the game. All to give you a sense for which models are among the best on those categories.
We’re kicking it off with the Field Marshal ability. Some, but not all Warcasters and Warlocks have this ability, which applies a certain benefit to every warjack or warbeast in their battle group. Some give a straight-forward ability such as being able to boost after rolling dice. Others, have a more complicated effects that trigger at certain points, change certain stats, or activate if the Battlegroup model spends a Focus point. These are not spells, but rather abilities that these great leaders impart universally to the warjacks or beasts in their command.
So let’s get right to it! The following are my list of the top three Field Marshal abilities in Warmachine and Hordes. At the end is a bonus “Dishonorable Mention” for the least impressive Field Marshal ability out there.
Number Three: Hyper-Aggressive (Kromac, Champion of the Wurm)
Hyper-Aggressive presents a unique challenge to foes facing Kromac2. This Field Marshal ability gives every model in his Battlegroup the rule that any time they’re damaged (except when moving) by an enemy model, they can make a full move directly toward the model that damaged them. The best part of this Field Marshal ability is the word “can”. I think what this ability does more than anything else is create mental labor in your foe. Every time they make an attack against a warbeast (and you brought a lot of warbeasts, right?), they are potentially allowing that beast to draw closer. Because you can, you don’t have to make the move. Players cannot lure out your beasts to kill them one-by-one unless you want them to. Although, with relatively high defense on many of their beasts, it may be okay to let things get in close.
Honestly, the power of this is to force your opponent to spend too much time thinking about their strategy. Many people play with a deathclock, and most tournaments use them, and that’s where this shines most. If your opponent spends 3 extra minutes per turn having to think through the peril of your beasts suddenly being in their face after an attack, in a game that lasts four turns that’s 12 extra minutes of time you forced on them for free. Meanwhile, you can sit back and play the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t game”. If they do draw your beasts too close? Strike! If they don’t? Make what gains you can on scenario/attrition and set up the same Sophie’s Choice for them the next turn. And if it never gets triggered during a game, well… that just means that your Warbeasts have not been damaged at all. Win, win, and win.
Number Two: True Sight (Captain Kara Sloan and Sovereign Tristan Durant)
Warmachine and Hordes are at their heart games of making advantageous trades. Trying to remove your opponents’ key pieces before they are able to leverage those pieces on your force. Two of the critical ways that forces shield their key pieces are with Stealth and cloud effects. And that’s why Sloan and Durant2 have such a powerful Field Marshal ability: they let let their Battlegroups ignore those two key defensive techs.
The ability to scalpel out the pieces that can threaten you the most is critical, and many forces bend over backwards to find tricky ways to accomplish it. Electro-leaps or sprays that hit their own models can work, and spells like Ashes to Ashes or Magic Bullet come at a premium for the ability to affect these hidden models. Likewise, there are Warcasters and Warlocks who can expend their Focus or Fury to remove or sight thru clouds with a spell. Sloan and Durant2 simply hand out this ability to every battlegroup model. It severely limits many lists’ ability to protect key infrastructure, as True Sight is going on models that can boost their shots to make certain their spot removal sticks. This Field Marshal ability gives a huge leverage advantage to these casters and their forces against the most common methods of defending models. That’s not to be underestimated.
Number One: +2 SPD (Xerxis, Fury of Halaak)
Xerxis2 doesn’t need your fancy Field Marshal names. One symbol, a number, and three letters are enough for him. It’s really simple. He gives +2 to the Speed stat of all warbeasts in his Battlegroup. Chain Attack, in their recent Skorne errata review, suggested that Xerxis2 might have the best Field Marshal in the game–but they would need to look over all the others to be sure. It was actually their comments that made me think of this series. Why not review abilities across the factions? And it’s my considered opinion that their hunch is right (not surprisingly given their great depth of knowledge about the game).
This Field Marshal ability improved Xerxis2 himself, somewhat replacing a costly spell. But more importantly, it give some real advantages to his lists. Titans now move as fast as Ret Myrmidons in his list. The Aradis become a respectable Speed 5 rather than their slower-than-even-dwarves 3″ movement. It makes Molik Karn and his Cyclops brothers and sisters a nasty Speed 8. And the Archidon clocks in at a whopping Speed 9 with this ability. That’s some serious threat range for a faction that carries the Rush animus frequently. It’s a stunning Field Marshal ability: the question becomes, does Xerxis2 have enough other elements to work with to make this ability shine?
Dishonorable Mention: Undead (Maelok the Dreadbound)
Maelok’s Field Marshal ability gives Undead. Just Undead. Now, there’s a reason for it: his feat gives +2 ARM to Undead models. But in Mark III, “living models” phrasing seems to be a little less common a distinction. Ashen Veil is the most common effect that has a distinction for living models that comes to my mind. It’s handy to not suffer that -2 to hit in melee, but that’s more of a perk than something to plan for.
Undead also means that warbeasts don’t give up souls, but again that’s only a concern against certain foes. An ability that is contingent on what your enemy brought to the table can be suspect. Ultimately, the justification for this one seems more fluff than rules. If it wasn’t, then the Feat could simply be that Warbeasts and Undead models in his control range gain +2 ARM. It’s a neat narrative device (dead warbeasts serving him), but an underwhelming Field Marshal ability on an otherwise solid Warlock.
~ Does this ranking fit your thoughts? Did we miss a critical attribute? Was a great model overlooked, or a powerful interaction missed? Is Number One really that good? Do you think the “Dishonorable Mention” is not so dishonorable after all? Let us know in the comments below!
To watch the worst of the worst hit the tabletop, check out Chalkboard’s Warmachine and Hordes blog at: