Well, I was finally ready to give MacBain!!!! a try. I had a 35 point Four Star list ready for him, but as Beanpole was preparing for a tournament I borrowed some of his models so we could play at 50.
Alexia & the Risen
Aiyana & Holt (borrowed)
Saxon Orrick (borrowed)
Beanpole was running:
Agonizer (hereby known as "He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named")
This is was my first game playing a true Mercs army, however most of the units were of course familiar to me. I wasn't sure what to do with MacBain!!!!, but I'd been thinking about it over the week and had come up with some strategies:
1. Juggle Fortune between the Cutthroats and Nyss.
2. Use a full Energizer on the first turn to get the Mangler up the board quickly; other upkeeps could be cast in the second turn.
3. Start shooting early with the Cutthroats, but then use Bushwack to run them to safety and charge him with feated-on Nyss.
4. Keep MacBain!!!! near enough to the Mangler for Jackhammer.
5. Be ready to use Energizer for hit-and-run attacks with the Mangler.
6. Potentially use the Mangler as bait to draw heavies away, so that...
7. ... Maddy, who would stay safely behind MacBain!!!! all game, could give him the Intrigue move, which along with...
8. ... the Eliminators, who would also stay well back all game, would run forwards through his whole army to engage his warlock at the end, meaning that...
9. ... MacBain!!!! could get to the warlock with Gang and possibly Fortune, closing out the game by himself thanks to Undertaker blocking transfers.
We rolled a mission with two zones, two objectives, and Killbox (which I think we both forgot about?). I won the roll; since I wasn't too worried about terrain I chose to go first and Beanpole chose the side with less terrain in the way. We both picked the Arcane Wonder. Beanpole played with a deathclock as preparation, but I was not prepared to use a deathclock on my first game with a new(ish) faction, so I just ignored it. I think I went at least a half-hour over the deathclock time.
Well, the Nyss had to go in the middle on account of the rough terrain (of course I could have put Alexia there and used Saxon...). I tried to spread the rest of my forces around them. My support models and Eliminators stayed in the back.
Beanpole put his Nihilators on my left with Karn, and the Incendiarii on the right with the Titans.
I then put the Cutthroats in the middle, with Kell and Saxon on the left (I figured they would do better shooting at Incendiarii than at Titans).
So before I even moved anything I realised I had made my first mistake: MacBain!!!! was not going to be able to advance aggressively because of the Cutthroats, and I wasn't sure I would be able to reach them with Fortune if they ran first. Clearly there was no hurry, I could have just kept a Cutthroat back a little, but instead I cast Fortune first then moved MacBain!!!! over to the left with Energizer in order to go around them, moving him away from the Mangler. It was my first activation and already things were falling apart...
Everything else ran forwards, with the Eliminators hanging back and the Nyss finding themselves boxed in and unable to spread out (I didn't want to move them too far forwards yet because Incendiarii). Kell started flanking around the forest. The Mangler ran to toe the zone, but I think I ran him out of my control area. I wasn't able to move the Blasters as far forwards as I had wanted to because Thor was behind them, so I could activate him first but after they ran they were out of his command range so I couldn't use Pronto. Sigh.
Beanpole ran up, engaging a couple of Cutthroats with Nihilators. Defenders Ward went on Tiberion as he was already in the Mangler's charge range.
So I had been planning to pull my Cutthroats to the right with a Bushwack (I have yet to actually use that rule with them...), but because two of them were engaged I stupidly decided to basically shuffle around and shoot stuff. So they did, as did the Nyss, killing a few models including an Incendiarii, but not really doing as much as I wanted due to my opponent doing a good job of protecting things with cover and the Krea's animus. At one point I put a six-man Nyss CRA into one Incendiarii, but Tiberion took the hit with Shield Guard.
I wasn't ready to charge Tiberion yet as I wasn't sure Aiyana could tag him and I was too far for Jackhammer, meaning my chances of killing him would be slim at best. In retrospect I don't think I could have allocated focus anyway, but it didn't matter since I never even tried. Instead I shuffled the Mangler back a couple of millimetres, to the very corner of the zone. MacBain!!!! advanced into my zone and put some damage on the Krea with his handcannon.
Kell continued to flank while Saxon stayed back to hand out Pathfinder. Alexia ran up to be ready to collect next turn. A few Risen moved up to make nuisances of themselves. One Blaster moved way out in front to keep the Titans busy, but Thor failed to pronto the other.
Nihlators under Carnage killed most of my front line. The Gladiator killed the Blaster. I think Beanpole was planning to kill the other with Tiberion, but he forgot to Rush him meaning he wouldn't have made it over the first Blaster's corpse. Karn and a Nihilator contested my zone, meaning I couldn't score. He also feated this turn.
Well, I wanted to start scoring, and that meant killing Karn. Plus he was basically offering me his gladiator, it would have been rude to refuse. So Sylyss upkept Fortune on the Cutthroats and the Mangler got three focus. Thor used Tune Up to boost the Blaster's damage rolls, and Pronto to move it into position so it could aim and spray the objective, catching the two Titans and the nearby Incendiarii. He did decent damage to the objective, but Tiberion shield-guarded the shot on the Incendiarii.
Aiyana Kissed the Gladiator, someone cleared a Nihilator who was threatening free-strikes (Holt maybe?), then the last of the Cutthroats charged, doing a surprisingly large amount of damage. Finally the Mangler charged in and finished the Gladiator off.
Next the Nyss killed the Nihilator in front of Karn and I think did some damage to the cyclops himself, as well as finally killing that damned Incendiarii behind the well as Tibbers had already used up his shield-guard. Saxon charged Karn and did very respectable damage, adding a point of fury with his skinning knife to reduce the number of times Karn could force a reroll. MacBain!!!! cast Fortune on Alexia for a single focus thanks to the Arcane Wonder, then used his last two points of focus to cast Energizer and try to pull the Mangler to safety.
Finally Aiyana charged Karn. Well, actually, she charged the Krea. Seeing as Karn had already lost a number of boxes I figured that Aiyana should be able to handle him and might be able to get the Krea as well, so I moved her to engage both. But then it occured to me that in that position she was turning her back to the rest of the Skorne, so by charging the Krea instead she would end up with a better facing. This was not the smartest thing I've ever done; by the time she'd spent her last Risen, Karn still had a single box left.
I still had one last attack I could put into him however; Kell. I walked Kell into the forest and fired into the scrum. With the backstrike bonus, but firing into melee, I needed a seven. Which I got, landing the sniper point of damage needed for the kill! That was a relief I can tell you! I ran Sylyss in front of MacBain!!!! under the vague theory that would make him a little safer, and ran the Eliminators to try to stop Tibbers from being able to reach the Mangler (clearly I've never heard of something called a "trample"), but they couldn't really get far forward enough. I scored a point for dominating the zone.
Beanpole brought back a bunch of infantry thanks to Makeda's feat and killed off some more of my infantry including the last of the Cutthroats, Saxon, Alexia, Sylys, and one of the ninja twins. Predictably, Tiberion mangled the Mangler. One Eliminator and Kell survived on one or two boxes each thanks to poor damage rolls. I couldn't score this turn thanks to reanimated models and the Krea in my zone. (It seems I also forgot to take a photo).
Well, I didn't have enough left to kill a Defender's Warded Tiberion, so the plan this turn was to clear my zone, destroy his objective, and spread my models out in his zone to make them hard for him to kill. I would keep enough models safe to contest his zone for another turn or two, while trying to score in my zone.
Kell missed a swing against an engaging Thor failed to Pronto the Blaster then missed a shot against a Nihilator. The Blaster, unable to run, walked as far as it could towards the far corner of the zone. Aiyana and Holt backed off and Kissed then shot at the objective, then the Nyss finished it off, killing or knocking down a few Nihilators too. Cylena failed to clear the Nihilator in front of MacBain!!!!, so he finally feated on all my models in my control area (I actually could have protected one more model than I had), cast Fortune on himself, killed the offending Nihilator with Jackhammer, then charged and one-shot the Krea to clear the zone. At this point I considered using Energizer to back away from Tiberion, as I was just in his threat range, but I carelessly decided that the forest would be enough to keep him away and I would be better camping to protect me from all the Nihilators and Incendiarii staring at me. I went up to three points.
As it happened, there was tons of room for Tiberium to pass between the well and the forest, allowing him to walk up and start swinging away. By some cruel twist of fate however, terrible dice kept MacBain!!!! alive! By the time Beanpole ran out of activations MacBain!!!! had a single damage box left!
I saw two option now. Run away from Tiberion - using Maddie and Nyss to shield MacBain!!!! from the freestrike - and try to get into the other zone to dominate for five points, or go all in on Makeda. Eyeballing it, I wasn't sure MacBain!!!! could reach the other zone around the forest, though I had forgotten to account for Maddy's Intrigue move; in retrospect I'm pretty sure he could have made it with the extra three inches. Torn, I asked myself: "What would MacBain!!!! do?". The answer was obvious.
So I upkept Fortune, used Intrigue to walk as far as I could around Tiberion without taking a freestrike, then tried to use the Nyss to gun down a blocking Paingiver who I had very intelligently just engaged with MacBain!!!!.
Sigh. None of the Nyss could land the 11 needed to hit. Actually their dice were pretty cold all of a sudden; even when I landed hits on Nihilators I kept failing to break ARM 13...
Finally I gave up. Maddy ran over to block Tiberion's view of MacBain!!!!, protecting him from the freestrike. MacBain!!!! killed the Paingiver with Jackhammer, then charged Makeda. I really should have been boosting attack rolls, instead I put my hopes on Fortune, but only landed a couple of attacks and left her on about 7 boxes.
Then I suddenly remembered the nearby Eliminator! DOH! If I had even just run her to engage before I would have had the Gang bonus, which would have been more than enough to finish Makeda (I'd rolled a whole lot of 7s and 8s when fishing for 9s...). But there was still a chance; the Eliminator charged Makeda. Makeda couldn't transfer because she had been hit with Undertaker; with the backstrike bonus and using a Combo-Smite, I had a chance... the attack hit and did 6 damage, leaving Makeda on one box.
Makeda killed MacBain!!!! with her first attack.
Holy crap, that was a close game! MacBain!!!! on one box, Makeda on one box, it was crazy! I made so many mistakes and forgot practically all my plans, but good dice kept me in the game despite my stupidity. I mean, even when I should have known Tiberion could reach my caster and just let it happen. The number of times one of my models would survive on a single box was crazy.
In fact I was extremely careless at the end; I forgot to activate the Eliminator, costing me the Gang bonus. I didn't even think to try to Kiss her with Aiyana first (I don't know if was in range or not, I didn't even consider it). After I knocked Makeda down to one box, I actually might have still been able to finish her with Holt or Kell - unlikely, but possible; I had nothing to lose by trying, but didn't even think to.
Having said that, Beanpole's dice weren't bad at all. He finally started making tough rolls this game too! The fact that only he was playing against the clock was obviously a big advantage for me; in fact he had less than three minutes left on the clock when the game ended.
Thinking about MacBain!!!!, he doesn't really seem that scary. No Freezing Grip, no Iron Flesh, no double-damage-feat. But his spells and abilities, while not exactly powerfule, are versatile and useful and can solve problems.
Fortune is not the most powerful buff around, but it's very versatile as just about any model or unit would benefit. It's no coincidence that MacBain!!!! had it on himself at the end; I wanted it on him the turn before because I knew I might need to go for the assassination soon. I love Jackhammer, it gives his jacks some much-needed extra hitting power while getting around things like disruption, but because models can use it to attack before moving they can clear their own charge lanes. There's some synergy with Fortune there, as MacBain!!!! proved a couple of times that game. Energizer is expensive but those few inches of out-of-activation movement can be a big deal, and using it at the start to get jacks further up feels good to a Khador player like myself. I'm still not sure how much use I personally will be able to get out of the feat, but I can see some applications for it; I think it would have pretty useful that game if I'd used it earlier on, I just kept forgetting about it. And Grievous Wounds? That's a reason to take him right there!
The rest of the army worked quite well. I didn't get as much use out of the Cutthroats as I would have liked; partly because I overextended them a bit as usual, and partly because Beanpole does a pretty good job of protecting his models with cover, the Krea's animus, and even Tibber's shield-guard. I didn't do that much damage with the Nyss either, but I have to admit it was kinda crazy the way they just stood back and shot through the forest like it wasn't even there. Aiyana was a huge enabler, and Holt wasn't bad either. I might not have been terribly smart with Alexia, but her (mostly) taking down Karn was huge, that guy is trouble and getting rid of him removes a lot of pressure.
Anyway, I will probably be swapping between Sorscha and MacBain!!!! for a while depending on my mood and what models I want to use. In the meantime I'm hoping to get some warcasters painted, but where's the time, amirite?