Rounding out my review of Khador’s new battle box, we shall consider Kozlov, friendliest of the Northern warcasters. As usual, any mistakes are my own.
Kozlov is a beefed-up iron fang Kovnik. Tuff, defense 15, and Arm 17 render him bullet resistant. MAT 7, precision strike, and P+S 12 weapon master on his axe give him enough punch to threaten all but the most durable heavies. Sidestep and SPD 6 leave him surprisingly mobile. His feat gives friendly faction models within his control range +2 move and unyielding. He features average focus and warjack points.
· Avalanche—gives AOE attack with critical knockdown.
· Raiser wind—standard Pow 12 magical zap.
· Fury—Upkeep that gives +3 melee damage and -1 defense to a friendly faction model or unit.
· Tactical supremacy—Upkeep that gives reposition to a friendly faction model or unit.
· Chosen ground—Upkeep that gives Kozlov’s battlegroup pathfinder and steady.
Kozlov is a tempo caster. He tunes up a couple quality units with fury and tactical supremacy. At the critical moment, his feat sends his army sprinting into battle where unyielding helps them weather counterattacks from whatever survives his charge. While Lord Goat can get his hands dirty, he prefers to work the mid field—enabling the rest of his army rather than personally leading the charge.
When Kozlov was first announced a lot of us compared him to Butcher 1. It made sense—weapon master, durable stat line, big freaking axe, fury, feat that turns his army up to 11. So, when I started building old goat lists for my journeyman league, my first reaction was to make a face wrecking train of doom. It turns out Kozlov is a far better support caster than front line combatant. Once he has 2 upkeeps running and one of his jacks loaded for bear, he does not have the resources to take on heavies single-handed. So getting him to work well required a change in perspective.
The key to getting the most out of Kozlov is understanding that everything revolves around his feat. All of his abilities are geared toward powering up models/units/his battlegroup in order to maximize his list’s output when he goes all in. The optimal play is to charge everything forward end of turn 2 and remove 25-50% of the enemy force outright. If your opponent has anything left to threaten you after that, unyielding should throw the attrition game even further in your favor. If the alpha is out of reach, your army can always run forward and jam—setting up for a turn 3 assassination.
I like everything on a caster’s card to have a purpose. Unfortunately, a third to a half of Kozlov’s spell list is dead weight. Avalanche is too expensive on a caster that will always be upkeeping at least 2 spells and loading a jack—especially since hitting and fishing for crits requires him to boost to hit. Raiser wind and avalanche are two redundant “I can do magical damage” spells on a caster who ends up farming out most of his stack each turn. Chosen ground—his signature spell—should be amazing. In practice I found it to be useful but far from game warping. Do not get me wrong, battlegroup wide pathfinder is nothing to sneeze at. The catch is that it only came into play 2 out of 8 games. Steady looks good on paper but did not do anything for me. Unless I wanted to set up a throw chain, even if I had steady active, I still had to sacrifice a movement or action if hit by a knock down affect. It does not help that pathfinder and steady are natively available on the Kodiak and devastator chassis. For a signature spell, chosen ground left me unimpressed. Replacing steady with sturdy would make Kozlov into a scenario monster but sadly such is not the case.
Kozlov “helps” lots of models. What he does not do is offer much strategic flexibility. His game is won or lost on feat turn. Beyond that turn, all he has is fury and tactical supremacy. This left me feeling as if I was a spell short or an extra ability shy of a full caster. I have heard it said that Khador plays a fair game well. Kozlov exemplifies this perception—and in my opinion this leaves him somewhat wanting in the larger competitive environment.
Warmachine is all about the signs and portents rule. Everyone can benefit from signs and portents but there are some models that gain a lot more than others with S&P on the board. Put another way, warmachine is about magnifying great models, not papering over the weaknesses of lesser offerings. So, Kozlov loves two types of models. His feat adds movement and armor to engaged friendly faction models. Movement benefits everyone but especially high threat range pieces. armor tends to help higher armor models with multiple wounds. So, we are looking for fast high armor multiple wound models—cavalry. My preference would be for Uhlans and Drakhun but outriders certainly wouldn’t mind the help. Malakov 1 with redline on a jack also benefits heavily—you have not lived till you have thrown a fully loaded juggernaut 11 inches on a free charge ending its turn with arm 22. Eliminators? Heck yes! I would even look at manhunters and Uri.
Second, Kozlov loves some solid ranged support. Widowmaker scouts and marksmen are the obvious choice but do not overlook mortars and field guns. Since ranged options probably won’t be mixing it up in hand-to-hand, the usual mercenary shooters are also great additions. Grab Behemoth or a gun carriage to cover both options. Kozlov needs his targets taken down a peg to set up his charges and insure successful one-round-removals. Anything that can threaten heavies and infantry turn 2 is worth consideration
Kozlov is one of the best battle box casters to learn the game with owing to his simple order of activations (turn 1 cast fury on the juggernaut and tactical supremacy on the decimator. Run forward. Turn 2 charge if going second, or wait just out of charge range to bate your opponent out if going first.) Other than allocating focus and picking when to feat, you do not have to make many decisions. This leaves fewer opportunities for strategic blunders than with other casters. At high skill levels the game becomes more competitive—I would even say bad for Khador once Cryx learns to maximize the reaper and parasite for example.
As the game gets bigger and bigger Kozlov starts to look a little tattered around the edges. The original prime casters have great feats that enable their strategies. However, they all have strong toolboxes outside their feats too. Kozlov has no such depth. Even at 75 points he comes down to who is getting my 2 upkeeps and when will I pop feat? This consistency is handy if you are just learning the game but if you have some experience under your belt I think his small toolbox holds him back. He asks a single question—a great one mind—but just the one and he only gets to ask it once.
As previously stated Kozlov also does not have a lot of juice to offer a large battlegroup. Even at 50 points I was glad Malakov was there to pump up my third heavy. The ease of turn movement kept my clock down but that was a result of his simple style, not my experience. In a game that favors larger battlegroups Kozlov feels like he wants 2 quality jacks at most—probably Behemoth and a juggernaut or Kodiak. That smaller battle group and straight forward approach is a feature in the beginning but started to feel like more of a bug the farther I got down the rabbit hole.
As a relatively new player I love_playing_Kozlov. Outside the field of honor, I keep comparing him to other casters. He is not as aggressive as the butchers. He does not have the flexibility of Malakov 2 and the Irusks. His feat is not as ball-busting as Sorscha 1. Unlike many of our casters, his fiction leaves me with a definite feeling of “meh.” Whenever I read his back story I expect the author to include something to the effect of “and he is good with children too.” I feel like he should swap out a little nice-guy for a little more bad-ass. Lacking that, He falls firmly in my list of second tier choices.
Kozlov is a solid stepping stone for new players. He offers a strong simple game that easily expands beyond the battle box. He does not challenge Khador’s design space much. He works the fundamentals—and that is a good thing for new commandants.