Thursday, September 11, 2014

The next Warmachine list

I like building things. I spend hours making characters for RPGs—obsessing over getting the numbers to match the concept. I apply the same process to list building. I read the forums. I review articles from prominent players. I do the math over and over again until I get a list that is worth putting on the table.

My latest obsession is Harkevich, the iron wolf. There’s something about his combination of escort, broadside, and pathfinder that feels like thematic gold. Karchev the terrible is aptly named as far as I’m concerned—terrible. Don’t get me wrong, he’s all kinds of fun, but his reputation isn’t born out on the table. I want to like him mainly because I long for an effective jack caster for the Mother Land. Enter the iron beard. Harkevich provides his battle group consistent mobility, ranged options, a decent accuracy buff, and a feat that is lightning in a bottle. Plus 3 armor for a round is bonkers good let alone a free ranged attack, free charges, and power attacks.

The challenge is making a list that takes advantage of those characteristics while remaining fun and competitive. After reading multiple battle reports and list discussions, my enthusiasm for Harkevich hasn’t dimmed—though it is tempered by a lot of dojo work. Building a list for Hark makes you want to take all the jacks to maximize the additional movement granted by escort and BG-wide pathfinder. Unfortunately, all-jack lists have significant limitations—most casters don’t have enough focus to run more than a couple jacks at peak performance, the restricted army size means it’s easy to hamstring the components, and your control area poses range limitations. Second, while hark can get his battle group where it needs to go, he doesn’t have much to boost the damage output once he gets there. In other words, he has some serious tech for scenario play, but less so when it comes to removing heavy armor. This is one of Khador’s problems as a faction. We have great jacks from a durability standpoint, but they take work to get stuck in, hit consistently, and do the damage. It doesn’t help that the advent of gargossuls has most players gunning for heavy arm skew lists as a matter of principal. Harkevich is unusual in that he solves the movement issue. However, he is like most Khadoran casters in that he solves one problem while lacking the tools to consistently address more than one of these issues at a time.

Mindful of this conundrum, I began crunching numbers with his theme list. I got to a 35pt core:

Harkevich +5

Black Ivan -9

Spriggan -9

Spriggan -9

Winter Guard Field Gun -2

Winter Guard Field Gun -2

Full winter Guard Rifle core -8

War dog -1

This is a tidly little arm skew list. I prefer the field gun to the mortar because, even though it’s a less effective unit, it takes me a while to resolve blast deviation. The fact that it costs a point less and helps fill the tier requirement is a nice bonus. The spriggans hit hard, bulldoze, and have game with their grenade launchers. The rifle core is a good long range unit, especially when left to aim. Covering fire makes for a nice board control option.

My next step was turning it into a viable 50 point list. I try to build everything in 35 and 50 point increments with a few switchable units and solos for flavor. This gives me a flexible force to play with at multiple levels. Here’s where I started to get frustrated. I couldn’t get those last 15 points to work. The best option for fun and profit came out as a Kovnik with 2 berserkers. Everything else didn’t provide enough threat projection for my taste. Granted, I’m odd in that I prefer smaller units so the WG death star doesn’t appeal. That said, adding two more jacks to Hark’s battle group seemed like too much, adding one jack didn’t leave enough points to flesh out the list, and cutting points from the 35 point core to add conquest put too many eggs into too small a basket. The difference between 35 and 50 point lists is huge. The balance between a big enough force to handle objective scenarios and enough power to address a gargosul or 2 is a very thin line—a line I assume my lists will have to face in league play at one time or another.

I scrapped the theme force idea for now. In its place I began looking at out of theme ways for Harkevich to get mileage out of 3 or 4 jacks while being able to play offense. My ideal list has:

• Several jacks that can hit hard and move quickly.

• A solid output unit with good defense—10 or fewer models.

• A support unit that can pinch hit for the battle group and the infantry.

• Enough punch to have a shot at dealing with Gargosuls.

• A few toolbox solos to deal with a variety of challenges.

This was easier said than done. I ended up looking at 3 different types of lists. The first built off four demolishers. This didn’t have the punch I wanted—4 armor 25 jacks are nice, but only if you can get your money’s worth out of them. The second was a winter guard focused force with strong shooting. This one had too many units and was too squishy. The third list focused on making conquest into a wrecking ball. I liked the idea behind it, but what I ended up with was conquest and a bunch of squishy mercenary solos. Conquest can’t do the work of an entire army, no matter how big he is.

I had an epiphany working on the conquest list. Most of the support I was considering boiled down to Ragman, Gorman Di Wulfe, and Eiryss II. That’s 7 points. One of my problems with conquest was that once you dropped another couple jacks in Harkevich’s battle group and added some mechanics, the support-to-army ratio was way out of whack. Conquest just cost way too much. Then it came to me. Why not switch conquest for Behemoth? Usually I avoid character jacks, but compared to conquest, big B was 6 points cheaper, had arguably better shooting, and would be a lot easier to transport. After that realization, the rest of the list assembled itself. Greygore Boomhowler and Co make for great tarpitting and decent offensive output. Alexia Ciannor and the risen form a perfect rear echelon reserve. The war dog is a nice security solo for Hark, who has to work towards the front to get his jacks stuck in. I was sad I couldn’t fit in mechanics, but you can’t win them all. The list became a serious contender when I realized that I could drop the war dog and add Valachev if I used pButcher instead of the iron beard. Ten trollkin charging under the affects of fury and blood frenzy is an idea whose time has come.

My working list is:

Wolf pact:

Harkevich +5

War dog -1

Spriggan -10

Spriggan -10

Behemoth -13

Ragman -2

Gorman Di Wulfe rogue alchemist -2

Eiryss, angel of retribution -3

Greygore Boomhowler and Co -9

Alexia Ciannor and the risen -5

I’m under no illusions that this is going to be a top-flight offering. It has more offensive output than most Harkevich lists that I’ve seen, but it’s still a relatively small army that is overly dependent on a 33 point battle group. It balances well between getting to where it needs to go and hitting decisively. Most important for me, it’s of a manageable size for my limited abilities and builds from models and units I like. Will it win all the time?—probably not. It won’t ROFLstomp a double stormwall list, but it will build well and play consistently. Basically I’m looking at it as a good learning vehicle that uses a bunch of models I’ve always wanted to play.

My standing rule is that I can’t buy into a new list until I complete the one I’m already vested in; so it may be a while till Harkevich hits the table. I would have to buy the models and find someone to paint/assemble them and my 2 main painters are really busy right now. Even so, I’m really looking forward to building this project.

Note: I drew a ton of assistance from Harkevich’s thread in the PP forums:

OrsusSmash’s blog at:

Was incredibly helpful. If this post has anything useful in it, they deserve notice.

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