Hey all, my name is David Counts, and I go by Thanan on the forums. I’ve been tabletop war-gaming off and on for 10ish years. I started playing Warmachine/Hordes back in May 2011. My factions are The Circle of Orboros and a brand new Cygnar force that I just started up. This regular-ish column will contain some hopefully useful advice, primarily geared towards beginning players.
One thing most new players will look at is the battle box. Battle boxes are an easy introduction to the game, containing just about everything you need to start playing, like quick start rules and a warcaster/warlock as well as a couple warjacks/warbeasts. Since I started with, and own Circle Orboros, I’m going to look at their battle box first. Today, just an intro to what comes in the battle box, and what simple things you can do to make life difficult for your opponents, straight out of the box.
The Circle battle box comes with pKaya, used interchangeably with the slightly more legitimate Kaya 1 (pronounced like kayak not Kayla), a feral warpwolf, and 2 argus. A great many Circle players hate on the battle box, as Kaya 1 is a bit of a one trick (albeit sweet trick) pony, and players very rarely, if ever, use 2 argus outside of this format. Regardless, a feral is a strong investment, and Kaya 1 can actually be awesome if you know what to do.
Kaya 1 – Kaya has some very average stats. One thing of note is her above average speed. Her strength is very low, and her mat is nothing to write home about, very average. This can, ironically, turn into a bit of a strength. She needs to boost to hit, and when you boost, you have better odds of getting a critical hit – knockdown, which makes everything easier after that point. But, as any experienced player will tell you, relying on critical effects to win is a bad idea. Defensively, Kaya is harder than average to hit, but she takes damage really easily; she can even be threatened by deviating blast damage. Kaya’s spell list is not overly powerful like Kromac’s or Krueger2’s, which makes a lot of people consider her not very competitive, and her fury is also only average.
Kaya also has a special ability granting an effective +2 on attack rolls to all her beasts in her control area. I cannot express to you how awesome this is (I suppose I just did, actually) or how often you’ll probably forget it. Remember!!! +2 on attacks for beasts in control area = amazing!
- Occultation – grants target model / unit stealth; a solid get into position spell. It is also a solid defensive spell to put on Kaya. This spell won’t really shine until you expand into higher point games and add infantry.
- Soothing Song – this allows you to drop a fury from beasts in her control area. This, I think, should be used mostly to keep transfer targets open and better allows running your beasts with lots of fury, and not risking too much frenzy.
- Spirit Fang – this is her damage spell, and the target suffers a speed and defense debuf. Which prevents them from making charges or slams and can really help you keep enemy heavies at bay.
- Spirit Door – this is the best thing she has. Charge both argus out, pull them back for defense. Send out the feral, spirit door to an argus, and pull the feral back with you! Twice a turn casting is optimal. The key to winning with Kaya lies in using this spell to your advantage. Important note: you cannot advance or attack after being placed by spirit door. This means its best used after everything has activated, not to get things in place to eat something.
Kaya’s Feat: she can place up to 3 fury on each friendly faction warbeast in her battlegroup, in her control. She then immediately leaches this fury. How to use this depends on whether you want to activate her first or last. Let’s say that things have all gone wrong, and your feral and argus are badly injured – both their spirits and bodies are taken out, seriously hampering their fighting capability. One thing you can do to make things easier for yourself, is heal them, leach all the fury, and then heal for some more, or keep some of it on you for transfers. Maybe things are actually going all right, and you’ve just alpha struck the heck out of your opponent’s army. You activate Kaya, spirit door all 3 of them, and then have some left for transfers. Or maybe things are getting close and you have a clear charge lane to their caster, and you can then charge, boost to hit, boost damage, and buy attacks, feat when you’re all out of fury, and keep going! Few casters can survive 13 P+S 11 attacks, but there are those that can, so watch out. Alternatively, if you need to boost both hit and damage rolls, you can have 4 fully boosted P+S 11s with one fury for a transfer left over. Also of note, if all your beasts have died, your feat is now worthless.
Feral Warpwolf – The feral is a solid heavy. It has a nifty thing called controlled warping, which means it needs to choose one of the following three at the start of each activation – +2 armor, +2 speed, +2 strength. It’s pretty speedy, and comes with a built in way to make it super speedy. It’s fairly squishy, but has a built in way to make it tougher. It’s a bit pillow-fisted, but comes with a way to make it hit harder. This beast has everything (I lied, it doesn’t have pathfinder or reach). It does have pretty decent mat, meaning it hits 14 defense on average dice (higher with Kaya 1! +2 mat is oh so good), it has very high defense, and low armor for a heavy. It comes with three attacks, and with the +2 strength he hits pretty hard. This beast wrecks things. If it gets into melee with something, expect that thing to die.
Argus – The argus is a speedy wolf, with two low pow bites and one nearly impossible to hit spray 6 which does no damage. It does have high defense and OK armor. A lot of things will need to boost to hit it. It does have combo bite, so it can make one high pow attack. The spray has the nifty ability to paralyze a foe, dropping defense to 7, and making them unable to run, charge, slam or trample.
Circle Battle Box Play Style and Tactics – essentially, the Circle battle box relies on denying retaliation with Spirit Door. Think of Kaya as a mid line commander, and she points at something that your opponent has in front. Send out your two argus missiles, and watch an enemy light fall or cripple two different ones. Then spirit door to reload your argus missile launcher. If your opponent is slower than you are (they will almost always be slower than you), you can easily do this and not lose a model. If your opponent puts a heavy in front of you, send out the feral and watch it crumple. Then spirit door it back. In fact, if you do absolutely nothing except send out your feral and spirit door it back to you each turn, while maneuvering for the best position, you can probably chalk it up as a win. Just don’t expect your opponent to be too thrilled with you.
Warnings and Such – Circle is remarkably fragile. If something can touch you, barring bad dice rolls, you will lose it. And especially of note in low point games like battle box, enemies will often have ways to buff their mat to get around your high defense, and they will be able to boost. Simply put, expect your beasts to die if something can get to it. One thing you should know also about Circle as a whole, but about Kaya1 and the battlebox in particular, is that very high armor can really ruin your day. Some casters can camp armor (I’ve seen over 25!) and even a feral warpwolf warped for strength is going to have a hard time doing damage at -8 to rolls. Also, if you play like I suggested above, expect new players to be annoyed or dejected. It’s not much fun for them if they never even get to roll dice. Circle can be remarkably powerful, but while cliché, knowledge is power – knowing threat ranges will win or lose you games. Read your opponent’s cards and ask for clarification on anything you don’t understand. Remember, the more you know, the more you grow as a player, and the more fun you’ll have.