Continuing my review of Khador’s MKIII battle box, today we shall consider big red’s archetypal melee jack, the juggernaut.
Standard disclosure…all mistakes are my own, comments welcome, bla bla bla.
The juggernaut comes with the usual Khadoran 10-20-34 for defense, armor, and boxes. It looks like its factional equivalents the crusader and ironclad. It has a single open fist and a capable melee weapon in the ice ax. At MAT 7 it hits more accurately than some of our warcasters but at SPD 4 getting to the fight can prove challenging. Critical freeze on the ice ax means that occasionally the juggernaut will render its victims stationary.
The juggernaut is a basher, a smasher, a crusher of enemies. The ice ax is one of the most powerful melee weapons in the game and the juggernaut is a capable delivery system. Its P+S 15 open fist gives access to standard power attacks as well as making a decent backup melee enabler. It is built to charge opposing pieces and remove them with extreme prejudice. First turn, it runs. Second turn, it charges or sets up to counter charge/contest. Third turn, it continues pushing up the board. You can use the big lug to block lines of sight, contest zones, and/or jam opposing pieces; however, it is at its best when applying the ice ax to your opponent’s biggest model.
The juggernaut is the standard against which all heavy warjacks are measured. It hits hard, can take a punch, and still hit back decisively. Its appeal is the value it provides for 12 points. Assuming the juggernaut successfully charges with a full focus loadout, it will inflict 27.5 damage against armor 19. Tack on support spells and that number skyrockets. Add in a little pre-charge shooting from widowmakers and most heavies are toast.
In my testing, the juggernaut was the most effective way to convert one activation and 3 focus into a dead enemy jack/beast. It hacked most of the way through a gargantuan on its own. With a little help from the decimator it cleared out 2 Protectorate heavies in one turn. I found that on average it killed off most of one heavy but with a little support—fury, redline, preliminary bombardment—there was no job too big for the juggy. It helps that even if you do not get the charge in, the juggernaut can survive a surprising amount of damage and remain combat effective.
I just spent a couple paragraphs praising the juggernaut to the heavens—and rightly so. I want to temper that enthusiasm with some experience lest other players expect too much of the mighty juggy. First, Sir juggernaut is kind of a resource hog. On average dice he almost kills most heavies—almost. He can absolutely wipe anything short of a colossal or clamjack on mildly warm dice but only at the cost of a third of your caster’s stack. If you want to insure his victory, you will need to soften up the target first. This functionally limits the number of juggernauts most casters can support. More than 2 and most warnouns are going to have to make some difficult choices.
Second, the juggernaut is slow. In order to employ its prowess, it has to make it to battle. This leaves it in the unenviable position of hoping to go second against overextended targets or use movement enhancers like redline to give it that extra push. This can leave players having to choose between hoping to bate out/catch opposing pieces and contesting/challenging objectives. The Juggernaut is not alone in its need for speed, it is however more inconvenienced than most without it.
Every caster can make use of the juggernaut. At base, give it 2 focus and let it go-to-town. There are a couple stand outs however that really let it shine. Malakov 1 gives it redline which—pound for pound—is just amazing. A free charge enabling a P+S 17 attack, a boosted P+S 21 attack, and 3 P+S 21 attacks is off the charts. Malakov II gives the juggernaut extra movement with escort, tactical supremacy, and feat. Harkevich’s feat and reposition let the juggy play outside its comfort zone. Irusk 1 can boost a juggernaut with superiority, though in most cases he will want behemoth or a colossal. Karchev turns all jacks up to 11 and the juggernaut especially so with feat, battle charged, and road to war. Strakhov is a straight up speed buff if you combine superiority and feat. Vlad 1 has a variety of ways to buff his jacks between his feat, signs and portents, and boundless charge. Vlad 2’s assail gives the juggy a nice boost though many players will probably look for a character jack in his place. Vlad 3 is perfectly capable of supporting the juggernaut with infernal machine, feat, and dash. Kozlov does good things for the juggy with feat turn and fury allowing him to reach and remove targets that would otherwise be out of range.
It is easy to read this battle report or that tournament list and get the impression that the juggernaut is 16 points of awesome in a 12 point chassis. I get the feeling that people assume that pointing a fully loaded ice ax at an opposing model is as good as guarantying its removal. To be fair, it is one of the most efficient killers in the faction—especially when you contrast it with models like Grolar and Behemoth which cost 50 and 100% more respectively.
My experience says the juggernaut is the cheapest way to administer a decisive SmackDown in Khador’s 18 jack stable. That being said, it is not the be-all and end-all that the hype suggests. It is difficult to get the juggernaut to combat in prime condition against anyone counting threat ranges. Its minimal threat range means that without buffs, it is a sub-par player in the scoring and alpha games. Average damage rolls leave most heavies near-but-not-completely trashed—meaning that if a juggernaut removes a threat, like as not it did so with the help of decimators, widowmakers, and such. Big red has plenty of buffs to compensate for these deficiencies—Kozlov’s feat turn on top of redline from Malakov 1 is my favorite so far. So, it is amazing in the value-to-investment sense—strategic versatility and independence—not so much.
Building battle groups, I keep running into the Behemoth question. In anything over a 15-point game, why not take behemoth over say 2 juggernauts? Casters like Irusk, Zerkova, and Sorscha 1 to a lesser extent seem to prefer a single quality jack such as conquest but for everybody else behemoth starts to cramp my list design space. After behemoth hits the table, all I care about are Kodiaks, juggernauts, and devastators. From that perspective, the juggernaut seems perfectly executed regarding value, effectiveness, and intent. Unfortunately, the more I play with the Juggernaut, the more I realize just how over-costed most of our non-character 16 and above jacks really are.
It is not a question of value, it is a question of what do the decimator, grolar, demolisher, destroyer, and spriggan do that other jacks do not accomplish at a better price point or with less cumbersome rules? The juggernaut asks a simple question. If you get within 8 inches of me, can you stop me from removing your piece next turn? If not, then that piece is probably toast. That is a compelling question. It is the question we want all of our jacks to ask to one degree or another. By that standard, every jack gets compared to the juggernaut. Frankly, point-for-point, the juggernaut comes out ahead in most of those comparisons.
The juggernaut is a reliable attrition piece at an excellent price. It is the best value removal specialist available to Khador short of a character or huge base due to MAT 7 and P+S 19 on its primary melee weapon. SPD 4 and a 1 inch melee range somewhat limit its impact but at 12 points you can afford to take 2 or 3 to swing piece trade totals in your favor. With the standard Khadoran armor/grid even a fully loaded enemy alpha may not remove the juggernaut. It hits the sweet spot between minimal price and maximum output.