Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hordes: Exigence Review - Trollbloods

Hordes: Exigence has been out for a little while now. Probably not long enough for any concrete ideas to have formed about the heretofore unknown entries, but definitely enough time to have digested the rules. As is tradition, that means its time to recap everything and see just how the gaming landscape looks after this latest release.

However, this review is probably going to be a little different than the expected review format. Here are the factors I'll be evaluating:

Efficacy: How well the model does it's "job." If it's a melee model, is it worth throwing into the fray? If its a shooting model, will it hit the broad side of a barn?

Meta Bending: Will this model inspire new list builds, or refine old list builds? Might this become a new list staple?

Coolness: Is the model idea cool? Does it try to do something interesting with it's design (regardless of if it succeeds or not)?

In honor of Xerxis' ascendance to prominence, gaining both an "Epic" tag and a cover art shot in the same book, I'll be rating each category on a scale of 1 to 5 using his fantastically, wonderfully impractical choice of weaponry: the mega-mace-chuck.

In an effort to keep things more easily readable, I'll be breaking each faction into it's own post. We'll be going in War Room listing order, so today we kick things off with Trollbloods. Review starts after the break!

Borka, Vengeance of the Rimeshaws:

Efficacy: 4/5

He's not fancy and he has his bad match ups, but players are discovering that Borka2 can run a pretty potent battlegroup focused, semi-control based game. Turns out that killing Trollblood warbeasts becomes a lot harder when you can only punch them one time per model during a crucial turn. And then they start charging you and eating your models.

Meta Bending: 2.5/5

I feel like Borka2 could bend the meta a bit with his frosty meat jam technique (feel free to take that line and run with it, Internet,) but I think he'll be heavily hampered by his bad match ups and how semi-frequent they probably will be. Weaponmasters en masse and upkeep hate are not what he wants to be dealing with, and I think those will always keep him kind of in check.

Coolness: 4/5

I initially didn't like Borka2 all that much, and I'm still not too impressed when I read his card, but the more I hear about how people play him - big battlegroup relative to Trollbloods, Axers, plenty of Counter Charge - he sure does sound fun. And playing a meaty tempo list can be very entertaining. I've come to appreciate how his design kind of comes together on the table (at least in theory; I haven't play as or against him yet.)

Dozer & Smigg:

Efficacy: 3/5

Dozer & Smigg are an odd model, being essentially an upgraded Blitzer. But I think they do a good job of bringing some interesting new ranged ideas to the faction with their long ranged gun and AOE accuracy boosting animus. And the devs were thoughtful enough to not make them cost a fortune (something they were doing with ranged models for awhile,) so I think they're quite usable.

Meta Bending: 1.5/5

Bonus points for bringing a new ranged option to Trollbloods, and they might get Gunnbjorn on the table a little more often, but the big "shake up" to the Trollbloods ranged game was the Bomber. Dozer & Smigg are likely to be more niche, though I'm sure they'll show up.

Coolness: 4/5

The model design is great, the rules are neat, and it's one of the few things that might scrape a never used 'lock off the bottom of the barrel. What's not to love? I've gotta dock points for the preposterously huge hands though.

Horgle Ironstrike:

Efficacy: 5/5

Cheaper Pyre and Slag Trolls (that you probably want for animi,) Hot Shot for better ranged damage output from those beasts, and an alternative way to manage fury and kick out animi. Absolutely fantastic for what he's supposed to do.

Meta Bending: 2/5

Low score here, which may seem at odds with the previous rating, but bear with me: Horgle doesn't do anything particularly meta bending for Trollbloods. The tools he brings to the table are extremely valuable and good. They just aren't "new." Expect to see established lists get better, with some wacky innovations here and there.

Coolness: 3/5

Being a Trollblood blacksmith is pretty awesome, and Horgle's efficacy means he's going to be a popular addition to lists from here on out. I'm not a big fan of the model, however, and he's leaning more towards a "support" model so its hard for me to get especially excited about him from a rules standpoint.

Braylen Wanderheart, Trollkin Outlaw:
Like this, but blue and a lady.
Alright, not like this at all, except the guns.
Efficacy: 4/5

Braylen is one helluva shooting solo. She's not quite as impressive as some of the best in the game, but she makes a pretty strong case for herself, and with a few Trollblood buffs backing her up she'll do some solid work. She also give the Highwaymen a potentially ultra-nasty buff, though I want to see that in practice a few times before really weighing in on it.

Meta Bending: 4/5

Go count up the number of viable, effective shooting solos Trollbloods have had access to up to this point (especially in-faction,) and then add on the potentially nastiness she can enable with Opportunist and Highwaymen CRAs. Braylen is the backbone of a potentially very strong new module for Trollbloods, and she's just fine on her own if you just wanted two accurate, decent POW guns. She's going to be popular, and she'll definitely have an impact.

Coolness: 5/5

If I was going to let myself break through the 5 wall, this is one of the models that would make me do it. Braylen is the best of all possible worlds: a completely unexpected model entry, a great set of rules, a solid synergy piece with another interesting army option, and potentially a very cool model (the art is nice, though PP's art doesn't always translate so we'll see how the model turns out.)

Trollkin Highwaymen:
Efficacy: 3.5/5

Several podcasts have waxed ecstatic about the possibilities of two ranged attacks, CRA, and Opportunist, and that did a lot to bring me on board with the Highwaymen. They also have solid synergy with Grim2 and Gunnbjorn, as well as fair synergy with other 'locks like Calandra or Jarl. Highwaymen also may provide Trollbloods with their first legit DEF skew, at least against some ranged attacks (DEF 16 is a problem for direct shooting and ARM 14+ is good against blast damage.) I'm still not sure how well RNG 8 guns will work out overall, but I think they'll at least be good-to-great in the right lists, if not solid regardless of setting.

Meta Bending: 4/5

A fast, potentially defensively stacked, shooting oriented unit is definitely something you don't expect when you face off against Trollbloods. I'm not sure how often you'll see Highwaymen at present, due to the continued success of double Warders in list builds, but I do think that whenever the Highwaymen rotate in the lists that include them are going to present an interesting new problem for Trollblood opponents to consider.

Coolness: 4/5

No one really expected the Highwaymen to come out with the suite of rules that they ended up with, and Braylen's Leadership ability with them is another huge, unexpected boon. They're an interesting new type of unit for Trollbloods to try out, they're aggressively points costed, and they're boasting no fewer than three models in the "rootin'-tootin'-shootin' cowboy" pose, which is an automatic 4 point rating if nothing else.

Northkin Fire Eaters:
Like this but with another guy, a midget, and all of them are blue.
Efficacy: 2.5/5

The Fire Eaters are odd, in that they fill a niche that is similar to Scattergunners, but have conditional excellence over them. The Fire Eaters can out-threat the base Scattergunner unit very slightly with Assault, and if you manage to juice them up with Fire they'll clear out all kinds of infantry. They're also markedly cheaper than Scattergunners, so if you just wanted to bring some sprays along it isn't going to cost you a lot to toss a unit of Fire Eaters into your list. But I'm also a little concerned that they may hinge too much on actually being set on Fire at some point, which may make them a bit gimmicky for general purpose application.

As a quick aside: I think these guys pick up a point or so on the scale when considered in the context of Borka2. They're AD anti-infantry sprays, which could be a big help in dealing with the Weaponmasters he doesn't want to normally see, and their native Cold Immunity makes them naturally fit into his feat plan without the need for his unit upkeep (either allowing something else to benefit, or negating it's need entirely.)

Meta Bending: 1.5/5

While I think the Fire Eaters are a perfectly usable unit, I'm not sure they do a whole lot to shake up the meta relative to Trollbloods. I think that they could potentially be a pain for Legion and Protectorate armies to deal with at range - getting as high as ARM 20 vs. Fire attacks/ARM 15 vs. other ranged attacks with 5 damage boxes and Tough - but aside from that I don't think they're going to be the thing that forces people to change their approach to fighting Trollbloods.

Coolness: 5/5

Much like Braylen, the Fire Eaters are something I absolutely love to see. Absolutely no one could have even guessed at their existence prior to the book coming out, so they're a total surprise to everyone. While they aren't stunningly powerful models, I think they're still perfectly fine and usable, and I still get a big smile on my face when I think about how random and neat this unit is. Plus there is every potential that their models could have fantastic sculpts.

Trollbloods Overall Release Rating: 5/5

In my opinion, Trollbloods got a release cycle that is very similar to Khador's last release cycle: everything is at least good, with some things being absolutely great. It's a very exciting, interesting, and reinvigorating release cycle for Trollblood players, and it's easily one of the best release sets I've seen come out of Hordes in a while.


Join me next time for a review of the Circle Oroboros models from Hordes: Exigence!

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