Thursday, May 1, 2014

Harkevich and Conquest - Reexamining The Pair

Conquest is a funny colossal. It's not an amazing, faction defining model like the Stormwall, Galleon, or Earthbreaker, but it's also not quite the janky fit that Judicator or most of the Gargantuans are. It exists in the state that PP was probably aiming for: good enough to take sometimes, but not so overwhelming good that it's your new "default" battlegroup choice.

Apparently a dedicated 'B' student
 (more after the break)
One paring that seems to jump out as fantastic is using Conquest with Harkevich. And it's definitely not bad! But it's also not quite such a cut and dry "great" deal either. It's something I've tried a few different times, with different other warjacks to supplement the big guy, and I have mixed feelings about using Conquest with Harkevich.

What follows are some of the biggest "Pros" and "Cons" that I've encountered when running Conquest with Harkevich (not all inclusive, but it's a start on a list.) These are the factors that determine what lists I like him in, and depending on my mood whether I like Conquest with Harkevich at all.

Conquest With Harkevich - Pros
  • Conquest has what is probably the single best gun available in Khador. Great range, great POW, great AOE, fantastic Critical effect. Harkevich allows you to double down on shots with that gun using Broadsides, and Fortune helps to mitigate RAT 4 (and fish for Criticals if you're feeling really gutsy.)
  • Conquest has Reach. More specifically: Conquest is one of three warjacks in Khador with Reach, and the only non-Spriggan, non-character warjack with Reach. If you want an 11" base threat range with Escort, he's one of the few ways you're going to get it.
  • Conquest combines that Reach with two very high P+S attacks. Conquest hits as hard as most other colossals do with a damage buff, which allows him to kick out some of the highest warjack melee damage in the faction (with the other option being Behemoth.) Combine that with an 11" threat range for a melee package that can threaten a good chunk of the table and needs to be respected.
  • Harkevich has solutions for two of Conquest's biggest issues: accuracy and mobility. Fortune is "attack type" agnostic, so it works equally well on it's melee and ranged attacks, and Escort is the same wonderful 50% MOV increase as it is with all Khador warjacks.
  • Conquest's Secondary Batterys bring a (very limited) form of enemy infantry control. It's low POW and blast damage, but Creeping Barrage templates can cover a staggering portion of the table, so if your opponent has ARM 12 or lower infantry, you can be pretty sure of where they won't be going. And if they do risk it, at least you get a chance to kill them before they make attacks.
  • Provided you can knock down an enemy 'caster, Conquest has one of the best ranged assassinations you can bring in Khador: a POW 15 followed by 4 POW 12's, with a walking 18" threat with Harkevich. You can't afford to boost all of that, but a boosted 15, two boosted 12's, and two unboosted 12's (combined with whatever knocked the enemy 'caster down) is enough to close a lot of games.
  • Jank-tech: Conquest can two handed throw 9.5" (10.5" if throwing a small based model,) hitting at a staggering POW 19 on the collateral damage. It is very possible to have Conquest two handed throw at an enemy 'caster, then follow up with a Broadsides shot from the Main Guns to sneak a game. As with the previous example, it gets even better if you have anything else to throw in the mix as well.
  • Conquest gives Harkevich a fantastic bunker to hide behind. Harkevich can be a pretty tough nut to crack (especially in his theme list where he'll probably be in a Wreck Marker,) but "impossible to target" is better than "tough to crack".
  • Conquest is the most durable single target you can put on the table with Khador, mostly due to volume of boxes. Combine that with Harkevich's feat for a model that can take quite a pounding and remain in shockingly good condition. It also helps that colossal systems are exceptionally well distributed, so as long as Conquest is alive you'll probably have at least one arm and a cortex to work with.
  • Conquest is immune to a ton of things thanks to it's Huge base. Pushes, slams, knockdown, stationary, Disruption, etc, are not a concern, whereas they can cause big problems with normal warjacks.
Conquest With Harkevich - Cons
  • A Huge base is difficult to work with. No matter how many times you practice or how careful you are, there are going to be situations where you just flat-out can't fit a Huge base somewhere you need it to be. Sometimes this will be under your control, but in the case of terrain or your opponent's models (or, god help you, opponent controlled terrain,) you're just going to have to grit your teeth and play around it.
  • Conquest actually costs you 21-24 points. I know the card says 19, but it's an extremely good idea to include at least a minimum unit of Mechaniks to patch him up (it does a lot to offset early game attrition,) and it's not a terrible idea to include a max unit, the Mechanik Officer, or both, especially since you'll probably have other warjacks they can repair. With "normal" warjacks, you can get around the need for Repair with redundancy, but if you're bringing Conquest you want him making it to combat in tip-top shape.
  • Almost nothing can miss DEF 7, nothing blocks LOS to the big guy, and there's no way to make any of that any better. If your opponent has a debuff or an attack they want to stick on Conquest, the only thing stopping them is air and opportunity (and possibly a damage roll.) Because of this, you kind of can't afford to make Conquest the backbone of the list (since it's potentially easy to debuff or control,) but it kind of has to be due to it's cost.
  • ARM 23 with 62 boxes is a helluva thing to try to take out, but in practice two ARM 23 warjacks with 34 boxes each are harder to get rid of. You can more easily force your opponent to have to split their resources and normal warjacks can benefit from things like Cover and being in-combat to stay safe from shots/spells. By consolidating part of your battlegroup from two models to one model (rough equivalency in points, though not exact by any means) you are effectively giving your opponent fewer discrete things to worry about, in exchange for the possibility of that one large target being more than they can deal with. Harkevich's feat helps, but don't let it fool you; Conquest still needs to engage enemies at a controlled pace if it's going to survive.
  • Conquest doesn't benefit from two of Harkevich's best features: Field Marshal [Pathfinder] and the Wreck Markers provided by his theme list. Neither of these is inherently a deal breaker - one is redundant, the other wouldn't help the math even if it did somehow effect Conquest - but it is worth bearing in mind that two normal heavies could use the Wreck Markers for Cover, which is usually a big deal.
  • Conquest has an ironically low volume of meaningful attacks. After many games with it, the only attack it's making most turns that really matters is the Big Guns shot: it's the one doing the damage, possibly throwing things, etc. The Secondary Battery guns are cute and can pick off models every once in a while, but the reality is that RAT 4 combined with RNG 12 (not terrible, but typically just inside the DANGER ZONE) make them bonus attacks that you just kind of toss out there. That gets a little better with Fortune, but not remarkably so. So what you usually get with Conquest under Harkevich in the early game is one good shot; better than no good shots, but its a low volume of output and Broadsides isn't something you want to be relying on casting. As a result a list with Conquest can very easily feel like you don't have enough attacks to throw around to attrition your opponent's army in the early game, which is something Harkevich wants to be doing very badly.
  • This is a psychological effect, so it may vary from player to player, but it's very easy to put Conquest in a Harkevich list and want it to be the "star". As a result, you end up skewing a lot of your choices around it: Conquest ends up with Fortune (even when it might be better somewhere else, or not upkept,) you cast Broadsides just for a second Big Guns shot, you pop your feat just to give Conquest +3 ARM on a crucial turn, etc. However, no matter what you do Conquest isn't going to be able to carry the game on it's own. You need to be able to recognize when it's best to give other warjacks Focus/Fortune/Feat protection, and if need be let Conquest get by with a minimum of Focus or just survive on his natural durability. It's difficult to do - anything costing you 18/19 points is going to naturally make you want it to feature prominently in the game - but I think the key to using Conquest well with Harkevich is recognizing when he's the star of the show and when he's the drummer.
So with that list of Pros and Cons, where does Conquest rate for me with Harkevich? It's hard to say (this will be a theme.) One of the biggest complications with adding Conquest to Harkevich's battlegroup is that it warps the list around it. It's tricky to compare a Harkevich list with Conquest to a list without it because you wouldn't necessarily build the lists the same way.

I don't like Conquest as your "main" warjack for Harkevich. As mentioned, it's too easy to debuff or control, and there's the fact that Conquest doesn't really output enough on it's own to carry a game by itself. I considered some lists where Conquest would be Harkevich's only warjack and the rest of the list would be the best infantry I could put in there, but I nixed that idea. Conquest really isn't designed to fulfill the same role as a Stormwall, and it's a mistake to try and use it that way.

Conquest in Non-Theme Harkevich Lists
So then obvious alternative idea is to run Conquest as part of a "normal" Harkevich battlegroup. This, obviously raises some other problems, chief of which is: "crap, I'm already out of points!" Conquest is expensive on his own, so bringing it and just one other heavy is pretty much half of your list (nevermind that one heavy isn't really enough to cover the ground you need.) The more heavies you add, the better the battlegroup feels, but the smaller your list gets. That is compounded by the necessity of including Mechaniks in a Conquest build; that's another 2-5 points you can file under "battlegroup support", and while that is way less than some other factions run, it's still another bite out of the points you have to work with.

For those reasons, I don't really like Conquest in a non-theme list with Harkevich. It's very difficult to strike the balance between having enough battlegroup to do the work you need to do and still having other elements in the list, especially since non-them opens up so many useful options. I think that in non-theme lists with Harkevich, the Behemoth is a better choice than Conquest: lower cost, similar melee damage output, comparable ranged output (if not slightly better,) and the ability to make use of terrain for protection are all important factors. You lose out on some of the benefits Conquest brings (Reach, immunities,) but I think its worth the trade off to make it more feasible to get the 3 warjacks into Harkevich's battlegroup that he wants (while still being able to afford other solid list choices.)

Conquest in Harkevich Theme Lists
That limits Conquest to Harkevich's theme list for me, which isn't a bad thing. Harkevich has a very good theme list, and Conquest brings something very important to the bargaining table: it's probably the best anti-colossal option for Harkevich's battlegroup in-theme. Juggernauts have a great P+S in the context of fighting normal warjacks/warbeasts, but when you start to get into the world of models that are ARM 20+ with 58+ boxes, the Juggernaut starts to come up way short. Add to that the other complications that the stronger colossals bring to the table - Drags, Knockdown guns, Disruption pods, etc - and it becomes even harder for normal warjacks to stack up against opposing colossals.

Conquest's best features - immunities, immovability, high natural P+S - are crucial features for being able to stand up against an opposing colossal. Backed up by Mechaniks, Conquest will fare the best out of any of our warjacks against an opposing colossal: it can take a beating on the way in and get repaired up, and if Conquest makes it to melee combat it'll do the most damage of any non-character option in Khador. It's no "silver bullet" - Conquest charging with Fortune under Harkevich's feat does around 39 damage to an Arcane Shielded Stormwall, which is well below enough to kill it - but it's a much bigger threat than anything else you can muster in Harkevich's theme force. In situations where Conquest can't kill the opposing colossal, you may be able to survive the reprisal using Harkevich's feat and finish the opposing colossal off, or your initial foray can soften it up enough for other elements in the army to be able to finish it off the following turn.

I don't necessarily feel that Conquest is a "must take" in a Harkevich theme list, but I do keep coming back to it. Colossals are very popular in my gaming group, and so I keep coming back to Conquest as an option (since it's kind of the only option.) I've gone back and forth about it, but a recent addition to the Khador arsenal has me reconsidering an old list, and that may end up being one of my more favorite places to slot Conquest.

Grolar and Old List Re-evaluation
Awhile back I put this list together:

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
* Black Ivan (9pts)
* Conquest (18pts)
* Juggernaut (7pts)
* Spriggan (9pts)
Battle Mechaniks (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Man-o-war Drakhun (without dismount) (4pts)

The principle was pretty simple: crazy ARM skew with enough heavies on the table that I can trade through my opponent's battlegroup. The test game I had with this list went well (my opponent played a similarly configured Feora2 list,) but I didn't do more with the list, for a few reasons. 

First: The list hinged on Conquest for scenario play since it was the only model that I felt confident could survive a charge and couldn't be moved out of a zone. In the test game this wasn't a huge deal - the scenario only had one scoring zone - but in a split scenario it would be a nightmare.

Second: This list heavily encourages a defensive Harkevich feat turn to protect the battlegroup (most specifically Conquest, but others may need it too.) Sometimes that is okay, but using Harkevich's feat defensively is usually a mistake. This list doesn't have a great way to maintain scenario pressure without relying on the +3 ARM to not quickly lose the ground it gains.

Third: Low attack volume. This list was typically kicking out four threatening attacks per turn, and two of those are Mortars so they are less than reliable. That led to a lot of Broadsides castings, which isn't what you want to be "Plan A." My opponent in this game didn't even have a large number of troops; just one unit of TFG + UA was enough to force me to dump high value battlegroup attacks into thinning them out. If I was facing a list that had two units, I don't know how I'd ever keep up with it.

The Grolar is an interesting new addition to Khador's warjack stable because it helps to address some of these issues. The Grolar is able to kick out a high volume of attacks in melee or at range - Ram is a faux-Beat Back for melee, and the Auto Cannon is ROF 5 - and even if those attacks aren't great attacks, it's better than the usual 1:1 you get from a Khador heavy. Harkevich has Fortune to help with accuracy concerns, and if you miracle up a turn you can aim you could do some legit work with a Grolar. Plus it brings an automatic Knockdown melee attack for assassination shenanigans and P+S 18 for a good back up melee beater.

A New Approach to An Old Idea
With all that in mind, here's a revised take on the idea of a warjack heavy list with Harkevich that makes use of Conquest:

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
* Black Ivan (9pts)
* Conquest (18pts)
* Grolar (8pts)
* Demolisher (8pts)
Battle Mechaniks (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
(season to taste)

This list leaves 4 points free for either a Drakun (no Dismount) or the Mechanik UA + Widowmaker Marksman. Likewise, the Demolisher easily be another Grolar, or you could use those extra points to upgrade it to a Spriggan. 

I've run this list recently (with the Mechanik UA + WMM to fill out the last 4 points,) and it worked pretty well. I ended up playing a similarly dense Convergence list so I didn't get much of a chance to try out the Grolar's attack volume, and even if I had the Convergence list didn't have much infantry to shoot at (surprise, surprise!)

Still, I liked the list. The Grolar's additional speed via Fleet made it easier to re-position to the outside flag after discovering which one went away, and if I had been smarter with the Demolisher it would have given me a nice bit of extra scenario control along with a possible Prime Axiom to Conquest charge blocker.

The Demolisher is actually one of my favorite parts of the list. I've generally enjoyed having them around with Harkevich, and I've been "iffy" on bringing one with Conquest, but I'm glad I decided to give it a shot. The Demolisher gives this list a model you can toss into a scenario zone and feel pretty safe about, which helps tremendously in situations where you either have to split your forces or when you need to contest a zone but don't want to move Conquest in yet. Plus the Demolisher brings two AOEs and a little Broadsides synergy, which is always nice.

By adding in the Grolar and the Demolisher, I feel like this kind of warjack heavy, Conquest oriented theme list with Harkevich might work. One of the things I like most about this approach to Harkevich's theme list is that it frees up Joe for another list, and he's much more valuable in the context of an anti-infantry list. I like some of the 4-5 warjack based versions I've seen, but they feel like they run into the same "colossal problem" so I'm interested in seeing how that same idea works with Conquest at the helm.

This is definitely a list I'll be trying out more in the future, and I'll share any experiences and updated thoughts I have on it when I get the chance to get in more games with it.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment