Privateer Press’ Jason Solis talks about rebalancing Cryx and has some nasty unit examples to share:
Take it away Jason:
When we sat down and examined Cryx and considered what we saw as the cornerstones of the faction, we identified speed, offense, and a reliance on dark magic in the form of necromancy (which we defined as the ability for the dead to play), withering debuffs, and potent attack spells. Cryx favors dirty tricks, swarm tactics, and numbers over quality. This is an army in which the generals come to the fore. Highly skilled warcasters work their fell magics to compensate for the weaknesses inherent in their troops—that is, low attack scores. Of course, the warcaster has something for that.
With a strong focus on powerful magic and easy access to arc nodes, Cryx does not require a powerful ranged game. It certainly has some unique capabilities in terms of Bile Thrall purges, creeping incorporeal Pistol Wraiths, and some devastating warjack weaponry, but in the main, Cryx will never rely on the gunline tactics exemplified by some factions. In Cryx, combined arms means getting the proper debuffs in place to paint a target before visiting destruction upon it.
To facilitate this vision of Cryx, we closely examined the capabilities and relative balance of every model in the faction. One of the first things we did was set the price of the Slayer. This was actually the first keystone that we used as a gauge to slowly determine the point cost of literally every other model in the game I wanted the ferocious Slayer to be balanced against some of Mk II’s most potent solos. From there, every other warjack would fall into place.
We hit a snag, though, with the arc node-bearing bonejacks. One of the things I missed most from Mk I was Cryx’s access to cheap, virtually disposable arc nodes. In the change to Mk II, we made these warjacks more powerful because we lost the more granular point system that enabled them to remain proportionally cheaper compared to other warjacks. To justify their new point values, we had to tune their independent offensive abilities up a bit. With the addition of Power Up in the new edition of WARMACHINE, they became even stronger, especially because the warcaster would no longer have to expend any resources to run them into position for a withering spell assault. After a great deal of debate and a number of playtest iterations, we determined something had to give. So, we dialed back the offensive power of these models (in order to bring them much closer to their Mk I capabilities) and reduced their DEF to 14. This put them in a good place with a Deathripper now sitting at 6 points.
Another place for significant change was Cryx’s support solos. The removal of wreck markers meant that we had to reconsider how the Necrotechs put Scrap Thralls into play. In the end, we decided they would collect scrap tokens from warjacks that were destroyed in their proximity. These scrap tokens could be used to either put Scrap Thralls into play or spent for a bonus when repairing warjacks, basically taking the form of spare parts. Somewhat trickier to use, this benefit felt like a nice trade-off for the removal of wreck markers.
The Skarlock Thrall, another venerable model in Cryx’s lineup, also underwent some significant changes. The Spellslave special rule has lost the ability to cast Upkeep spells, largely relegating it to casting offensive spells. That’s right. Your warcasters will be casting their own offensive upkeeps from here on out. Furthermore, Spellslave is now a Magic Ability rule, and each model with Spellslave now has its own Magic Ability score. To offset these changes, the Skarlock has acquired the Dark Fire spell, which enables it to collect soul tokens from the models it slays with this offensive spell. This guarantees the Skarlock always has something to do.
Obviously, Cryx’s units also needed changes. It seems that in the transition from Mk I to Mk II, some units became too strong, causing other options to be excluded. We ended up closely reevaluating every unit in the faction to make sure it had its own place. Looking at the Bane Warriors (previously known as Bane Thralls but changed after we realized “Thrall” was one theme and “Bane” was another), we determined they gave Cryx a melee combatant that had a withering effect on the enemies around it. We knew that we wanted to preserve both Dark Shroud and their Weapon Master ability, but something needed to change. Looking over the other Banes, we identified Ghostly as a unifying, iconic ability among them (that, and Undead…). So, the Bane Warriors traded Stealth for Ghostly and recosted accordingly.
At the same time, we identified Bane Warriors as the heavy damage dealers of the Bane army. By trading Weapon Master for Brutal Charge, we reduced the damage output of Bane Knights so they would now only gain +2 damage on the charge. This kept them potent on a RNG 2, P + S 12 attack without overshadowing the Banes.
Another piece in the puzzle was removing the movement benefit of Curse. We had long since realized that we overcompensated for the shortcomings of the Banes (which is really a slightly low SPD stat) with too much added threat range. In removing the added movement from Curse, we made the Banes far more balanced against the other offerings in the faction.
The Mechanithralls were also beginning to feel out of step with the direction we were taking the new editions of the games. Like the bonejacks, they were just feeling a little too strong for the point cost we wanted to see them at. With Cryx’s numbers-over-quality theme in mind, I knew we wanted to keep cheaper Mechanithralls rather than maintaining them at the Mk II power level at an increased cost. We reduced their DEF to 11 so that even fast-moving zombies would feel less defensively inclined than soldiers actually trying to stay out of harm’s way. We also reduced the POW of their Steamfists by 1, slightly reducing their damage output even as they retained their two attacks and potent Combo Strike (albeit with a reduced P+S).
Bile Thralls were also substantially changed in the new editions. We wanted to do something to tame Purge while still enabling the Bile Thralls to keep their (corrosive) teeth. We eventually settled on limiting the purge to an SP 8 template that would automatically hit every model touched by the template. This had the effect of somewhat limiting their potential lethality (in terms of square inches, if nothing else), making them more targeted and less dangerous to the rest of their own army, and adding some distance to their overall range. In the end, it felt like a solid trade-off and an excellent answer.
We also made some changes to the warcasters themselves to make them both more interesting to play and less punishing to play against. Balancing Cryx’s warcasters was a tightrope act. A referenced above, they are the linchpins of their armies, the elements that enable both their troops and warjacks to shine. They do so by weakening their enemies, removing their options, and generally making life hell for the opposing army—all fun and games if you are a warwitch…but less so if you are facing down Cryx from a trench on the other side of No Man’s Land.
The fearsome Warwitch Deneghra exemplifies this tightrope. While still the master withering magic, Crippling Grasp no longer stops models from running, charging, or performing power attacks (although her feat still maintains these prohibitions). Her feat itself no longer affects the FOCUS or FURY stats of those it catches but remains detrimental to just about every other stat in the game. So, it’s still a kick in the teeth without necessarily ruining all of your opponent’s potential fun. To keep things interesting, we gave her back Dark Seduction, which enables you to make a full advance with an enemy non-warcaster, non-warlock model followed by a basic attack.
Other models like Lord Exhumator Scaverous received all new and potentially defining capabilities like Knowledge of the Damned, which states, “When a model in its control range makes an attack or damage roll, this model can spend a soul token to cause that model to reroll that roll. Each roll can be rerolled only once due to Knowledge of the Damned.”
And holy god, the Wraith Engine… No longer satisfied with merely gathering souls, the Wraith Engine now produces Machine Wraiths from its victims. Soul Bondage states, “Once per round when a living enemy warrior model is boxed while within 2˝ of this model, you can remove the boxed model from play and replace it with a Machine Wraith solo.” Furthermore, it has flat-out gained Incorporeal and been bumped up to SPD 7, and the Machine Wraiths themselves have traded a wall of text for simple effectiveness: now possessing a melee attack, the Machine Wraiths can temporarily take control of warjacks they hit in combat.
~Privateer will be talking about all the factions in the month ahead!