HORDES: Hordes they are a’changing…
The Forces of… books for the 4 major Hordes factions are all but released (with tons of goodies for all to come in the Forces of Hordes:Minions); its time to look at how the Hordes factions have changed their playstyles in the scant space of a year (and an edition!).
In the short course of a year, Hordes Mk II has been field-tested, revised, released, and had oodles of extra goodies added to its mix. Along the way, a lot has changed… and a lot has stayed the same. For those of you who had Mk I collections and have decided to rejoin the fray, here’s a quick overview of how the game has changed and whats happened to your faction de jure.
Infantrymachine is less of an issue: The biggest (and most vocally extolled) virtue of the edition change has been the increase in viability of warbeasts with a subsequent reduction in efficiency of infantry. The causes for this shift are myriad, but notably: power attacks now very rarely incur MAT penalties, lots of warbeasts received MAT/RAT increases, and all warcasters are now free and come with warbeast points (points that come in addition to the point cost limit of the game, but must be spent on warbeasts).
Warlocks now have battlegroups a’la warcasters from Warmachine: Changes things in 2 warcaster games, but this is generally a simplification.
Frenzy isn’t quite as much of risk: Sure, you’ll lose that beasts’ animus and activation. But now you can dump Fury!
No more “popcorn reeving”: You can only reeve fury from beasts destroyed by the enemy. Sorry, Shredder Spam!
Now for some Faction-specific overviews:
Playstyle: Not drastically changed from Mk I, Trolls remain a principally melee-based force with some powerful (albeit short range) ranged attacks. They still emphasize buffing troop models, still carry Tough as a nigh-faction-wide ability, and still mostly come on medium bases. You’re probably not going to out-number your enemy, but you’ll be able to come at him from a number of different angles. Granted, it may take you some time to get actually get there, but…
Best New Warbeast: Dire Troll Bomber. Warbeasts with high POW ranged attacks are terrifying, as they can boost to hit/damage as needed. The Bomber has become a favorite assassination choice of many players. In tandem with an Impaler granting him Farstrike, he can threaten 17″ with two, potentially fully boosted POW 16 ranged attacks. Granted, the Bomber’s RAT of 5 leaves something to be desired; however, Trolls have access to a multitude of knockdown granting effects and warlock-granted buffs. Factor in his potency in melee (two POW 15 open fists) and his beefy stat-line and its not wonder the Bomber is the new black.
Best New Unit, Attachment, or Solo: Fennblade UA. It was tempting to be contrarian and chose the Runebearer or Janissa, but the Fennblade UA is the real deal. No Quarter as an order (previously seen on Mr. Walls, the Sea Dog unit attachment) in addition to Tactics: Set Defense gives the unit the extra oomph it needs to get delivered (13″ threat range) and be a threat post-delivery. Coupled with the drummer’s ability to let the Officer hang back far enough to live to give them No Quarter order, this is a fantastic 2 PC investment for an already quite solid melee unit.
Most Improved Beast: Troll Axer. Despite tough competition from Mulg, I feel the Axer has come the farthest in the Mk II transition. Rush hasn’t changed all that much (aside from becoming Warbeast only), but gaining Reach in tandem with its Thresher ability makes the Troll Axer one of the most common utility beasts along its cousin from the start box, the Troll Impaler.
Most Improved Unit, Attachment, or Solo: Pygmy Burrowers. These unholy terrors went from being one of the worst options in the Trollbloods arsenal to one of their most feared. Partially due to changes in rules nuances (particularly point blank) and partially due to the current metagame, if you’re playing against Trolls, you’re apt to see these 4/6 PC blighters.
Most Changed Warlock: Borka Kegslayer. Grim significantly changed as well, but Borka went from being an interesting board control warlock to one of the best melee support warlocks in the game. Between the more straight-forward change to Mosh Pit, to losing two corner-case spells for Iron Flesh and Wind Wall: Borka will straight-up kill you in melee rather than slam you around now.
Model/Unit that Lost the Most: Long Riders. Cavalry generally took it on the chin, but Long Riders really took a hit in Mk II. They’re point cost is through the roof, they no longer hit exceptionally harder (or frankly, farther) than Champions, and their ability to slam has been offset by the Impaler/Thumper and other KD-granting mechanisms within the faction.
Playstyle: Very similar to Mk I in terms of delivering melee damage with some magical attacks and some shooting. Skorne are now masters of delivering models to do damage – they specialize in giving out Pathfinder (big change from Mk I), immunity to free strikes, eyeless sight, etc. If you have a damage source, and you need to bring it to the enemy, the Skorne have tricky ways to get it there.
Best New Warbeast: Titan Sentry. When you look in the dictionary at the entry for “denial”, you will find the Titan Sentry. The Sentry is armored to gills, clocks in with a base three attacks (one of which with) Reach, and animus that severely limits charge angles from Warbeasts/Warjacks sans Reach (see more here). The epitome of “I take a hit, then hit you back”, the Titan fulfills the “tank” warbeast role that the Skorne were heretofore lacking.
Best New Unit, Attachment, or Solo: Nihilators. Nihilators have the same SPD as Praetorian Swordsmen, with an additional point of MAT, Tough, Fearless, Reach weapons, and Beserk. Sure, they lose a point of armor, don’t have two attacks (they have a POW 12 instead of two POW 9s with an option to combo-strike to POW 12), and don’t have a UA granted Side Step/Anatomical Precision mini-feat. That said, if you need a solid tarpit that can hit hard and fast, Nihilators are the unit for you.
Most Improved Warbeast: Titan Gladiator. The Gladiator’s MAT buff, coupled with his excellent animus and low point cost make one of the best all-around heavies in the game. Add in free slams with follow-up (plus additional damage on the slam), and you’ve got an excellent beast-of-all-trades. Sure, he lost Chain Attack: Grab and Smash, but now he delivers himself to the enemy to deliver some serious Smashing (or grabbing, I suppose).
Most Changed Warlock: Epic Morghul. The change to eMorghul’s feat (going from control area-wide Blind to +2 DEF/Dodge for friendlies) mixed up how eMorghul plays significantly. In Mk I, Morghul acted as a support/denial warcaster. In Mk II, he’s a super-solo melee assassin that either does the deed himself or supports a few beasts in the task.
Most Improved Unit, Attachment, or Solo: Venators + UA. Prior to the addition of their UA, most Skorne players derided Venators as overcosted for their ability set. With the addition of the UA’s extended range mini-feat, reform, and banner granted CMD check re-roll, these boys are apt to see much more board time. They retain their roll as lane clearers who occasionally combine for a big CRA against a heavy target; expect to these frequently fielded, especially in larger point games.
Model/unit that lost the most: Ancestral Guardians. The Extoller Soul Ward and Karax came close, but the Ancestral Guardian went from being a hallmark of the faction to “that guy you take when you play Zaal or field Immortals”. Losing weapon master in exchange for the ability to run sans souls wasn’t worth the trade-off. The Ancestral Guardian of old would have been excellent in the warbeast/warjack heavy environment of Mk II; however, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Circle of Orboros:
Playstyle: Circle remains the “hit and run” faction; having many placement effects or movement buffs to quickly move models around the table. On average, Circle has models with higher than usual DEF and lower than usual ARM, but there are exceptions to this rule. All in all, while Circle has gained some easier ways to crack high ARM values, they remain a faction dependent on hitting first and hitting hard.
Best New Warbeast: Wold Guardian/Warpwolf Stalker (tie). Both of the new heavies are excellent additions to the Circle arsenal.
The Warpwolf stalker is a heavy with Prowl and Pathfinder in a faction known for its ability to generate and navigate forests. Having a POW 17 reach attack, with the ability to gain Beserk and spring (via its animus) makes the Stalker an excellent and quick heavy hitter.
In all almost total contrast is the Wold Guardian. The Guardian is the ultimate in defensive beasts, with an animus that mitigates all but the heaviest shooting and defensive stats that rival a Rhulic warjack. Unfortunately, the Wold Guardian is a plodding SPD 4; however, given the factions many SPD buffs and placement effects this isn’t a total loss.
Best New Unit, Attachment, or Solo: Shifting Stones Stone Keeper UA. The new Shifting UA grants the unit two key abilities. Firstly: Stealth. Secondly: he’s command 8. That means as long as the stones are within 8″ of him, they’re in formation. Thinking about the area coverage you can get for teleporting models now. The UA opens up many options for double teleporting, large coverage areas for Serenity, etc.
Most Improved Warbeast: Feral Warpwolf. The addition of high POW bite attack and an increase in MAT makes the Feral Warpwolf frequently the “go to” heavy hitter in Circle lists. While his animus is still situational, the Feral’s warping abilities allow it maximum battlefield flexibility. Coupled with the factions push/pull abilities and threat range extensions and you have an excellent all-purpose beat stick.
Most Improved Unit, Attachment, or Solo: Druids of Orboros. Druids have always been a solid defensive unit due to Counter Magic, which remains on the unit. However, they weren’t known for their offensive threat in Mk I. All that changed in Mk II with the addition of Force Bolt to the base unit. Force Bolt allows the unit to push models, granting the faction excellent board control, even additional threat range extension, etc. Oh, did I mention they can still Counter Magic?
Most Changed Warlock: Kromac the Ravenous. While pKaya has also undergone large changes, Kromac has gone from being an interesting warlock a premier tournament ‘lock almost entirely on his ability to support warbeasts/units while denying enemies’ magic. Plus, he’s still a potent threat in melee himself; though he’s certainly not The Butcher by any stretch of the imagination.
Model/unit that lost the most: Sentry Stones + Mannikins. The loss of invisibility and change to advance deployment (only 6″ up versus 12″) really hurt the Sentry Stone. While its still a solid unit, its gone from being a nigh-auto-include to all-but a novelty.
Legion of Everblight
Playstyle: If anything, Legion’s strength as a “beast faction” has only been more exaggerated in Mk II. While in Mk I, it was easy to add Swordsmen or Raptors to any list, now its difficult to include units bar the new Hex Hunters and Grotesques without serious consideration of taking an additional warbeast in their place. If you like warbeasts all the time, Legion is the faction for you.
Best New Warbeast: Ravagore. As discussed with the Dire Troll Bomber, warbeasts with strong ranged attacks are extremely dangerous due to the force mechanic. Add in Legion’s fury management capabilities, in-borne Eyeless Sight on a “gun boat”, and the fact that the Ravagore’s no slouch in melee and you have the makings of an all-around great beast. The fact that it competes against the Carnivean for its points and still is taken is a testament to its utility.
Best New Unit, Attachment, or Solo: Blackfrost Shard. New meta-hotness for sure, but who can argue with a character unit that will probably always have Stealth on delivery and can pass out Kiss of Lyolis and Ice Cage once they get there. Oh, and they’re weapon masters. A good, self-sufficient unit with plenty of synergy with the rest of your list (especially your beasts).
Most Improved Warbeast: Carnivean. Not that the Carnivean was ever bad, but the bump in MAT/RAT, the increase to a 10″ spray, and the addition of open fists make the Carni one of the most scary non-character beasts in the game. Don’t forget SPD 6, high ARM (with an animus that can increase it further), Pathfinder, and Eyeless Sight!
Most Improved Unit, Attachment, or Solo: Striders + UA. Striders have always been a solid, albeit costly, unit. However, with the addition of Reform and Hunter, this unit becomes an excellent harassment and clearance unit. DEF 15 and Stealth make the unit tough to take down at ranged, while a high SPD, advanced deploy, and Reform help keep these guys kiting the enemy.
Most Changed Warlock: Rhyas, Sigil of Everblight. Rhyas still wants to do the deed herself; that said, her loss of Swordmaster, the clarification of her feat to a single bounce, the loss of Invisibility granted through killing a model, and the change to critical decapitation makes Rhyas work much better as an infantry support warlock.
Model/unit that lost the most: Seraph. A few small changes to the Seraph have made a big change to the prevelance of “Serpah Spam” lists of yore. Mk II saw a change to wings which doesn’t free strikes. The Seraph gained Serpentine (ergo, lost the ability to slam). Lastly, the model went up in cost, became a heavy warbeast, and gained Fury 4. While still a solid take, its rare or two of these in a list.
Not too much to say here. Some big changes to Gatormen and Alten Ashley, but all in all, they all still do what they did in Mk I.
While some of this is subject to change due to the release of the Forces of Hordes: Circle later in November, I feel this is a pretty good overview of what’s changed and what’s new. That said, its always interesting to hear what other players/metagames think of the changes. So let’s hear it!