One of the factors of playing the Retribution is dealing with the general scarcity of other Retribution players. Of course this is relative to everyone’s meta (mine for instance, has about three regular and another two non-regular Retribution players) but for the most part you as a Retribution player are going to be an unknown factor. Even with the ability to read up on factions via the Internet (which I assume some of you are doing right now), reading and actually playing are to very, very different things. I have run into countless players who tell me “I have never played Retribution” before we sit down to the game. For any player beyond the beginner level this is usually not a problem. However, I think Retribution has a certain level of SURPRISE factor that can throw even the best player of guard. This usually comes in the form of ignoring rules. Probably the most obvious case is the Mage Hunter Strike Force because they ignore so many rules, LOS being the biggest. Players who are playing against Retribution for the first time will often make the mistake of putting their caster too close to the MHSF. This usually leads to a terrible and untimely death. The opponent is mad, frustrated, and the like but they learn. They know better next time. This article is not about what the opponent learns. It’s about what the Retribution player learns.
There is a majorly crippling effect to Retribution players, especially those new to Warmachine in general. To be blunt: Retribution has a harder time learning to play tactics over surprise. Let me show you an example. There is a current tactical doctrine on the boards right now called Snipe, Feat, Go! The idea is to use Ravyn to cast snipe on the MHSF, up their threat range to 22”, and then pop her feat, which gives boosted attack rolls on all range attacks (along with Swift Hunter). You then move the MHSF into range of the enemy caster and proceed to gun…er crossbow them down. Since the SF ignore everything and most casters have paper-thin armor, the only thing that stops this from working is hitting a casters base Def, which is not hard on 3D6.
This can be a great tactic. The problem is that after you do it against an opponent once, they learn. The Retribution player, however, does not necessarily learn anything. They think that this is what we do, that this god like power should be used in every situation. It takes longer for a Retribution player to learn better because the faction has several units that are incredibly good. They allow us to win games by doing things like assassinating the caster turn two. However, a lot of those tactics only work because the opponent doesn’t know it is coming. It’s a surprise the first time it happens. Every faction has a surprise factor when you are first starting out. “I didn’t know Molik Karn could go that far!” or “that guy has counter charge!?” are often heard phrases coming from beginning players. But Retribution surprise factors seem so powerful, so integral to the faction that its hard for any player to see past doing certain things a certain way in every game.
The problem is that Retribution tactics make it harder for a new player to learn core concepts of the game. They get too focused on specific options rather then looking at the actual course of the game they are playing. Things like jamming, something the Strike Force can be very good at, are alien. They come to rely on that surprise factor; on hoping that the enemy caster gets within spitting distance of the SF so they can end the game in one blow. It takes painstaking losses before they start to try different tactics or, in the case of many players I have seen, move onto another faction or game entirely. This very thing happened to me and it took awhile to move out of my tried and true tactics. Obviously, this is not every single Retribution player to ever exist. Many do learn that going hey diddle, diddle straight up the middle is not always the best option.
So wheel of morality tell us the lesson that we should learn. When playing any faction do not rely on the surprise factor. Surprise will only ever work once against a smart opponent and we can only be so lucky to find people who have not played against Retribution. If a tactic requires your opponent to go along with what you are doing, then it probably is best used in a case-by-case scenario then as a general rule of thumb. It’s also a good idea to take a step back after a win and see how you won. Did you actually execute a tactical doctrine worthy of Napoleon? Or did your opponent forget they were in the kill box? Learning from winning is just as important as learning from losing. Finally, you should never be afraid to try something different even if it breaks away from every ‘rule’ that you’ve ever known about your faction. After all, no great tactics are spawned in a vacuum. Experimentation is the best way to get better at Warmachine and Hordes. Who knows, maybe you’ll stumble upon the next big surprise factor yourself.