Review starts after the break!
Note: Although the majority of the Cephalyx contract models were re-printed in this book, I'm only going over their newest entry (Cyphon), as everything else has been available for awhile now.
Cyphon is set up to cause damage, and damn if he isn't going to cause a lot of it. Empathic Overload, Onslaught, his feat, and the general abilities of Mind Slavers facilitiate all kinds of carnage against a variety of targets (especially with Agitators in there). Cyphon also brings some denial to the fight in the form of Breath Stealer, relative threat extension with Gallows (random, but its at least 1" of a push and sometimes that is all you need), and an ARM buff that goes a long way to making Cyphon or his battlegroup tougher to take out. The only thing I'd dock Cyphon for is that he is so offensively focused that his list kind of has to survive on it's own, though the "waves of meat" approach to Cephalyx should still allow that to work out more often than not.
Meta Bending: 4.5/5
Cyphon has some very potent potential meta effects. First off: his combination of Eyeless Sight on damn near everything, Pathfinder (via Onslaught), and massive melee hitting power makes him a very potent Bradigus counter. Second: Cyphon's ability in general to hit like a ton of bricks in melee makes him a great general fit for the current meta. Finally: his release allows for dual Cephalyx lists in SR, so anyone that is primarily interested in the Puppet Masters contract can actually run just that contract. The biggest thing holding Cyphon back from greater meta impact is likely to be the fact that Mercenaries in general aren't played too often competitively, and then you also have to factor in whether those Mercenary players are going to invest in Cephalyx (I would if I were playing them competitvely, but Mercs tend to attract players focused more on a narrow band of models).
Cyphon would have scored pretty high here initially, but his model pushes his coolness factor up a whole 'nother notch. Having a super nasty melee power house enabler model that also explodes things is great; having that model also be a floating head in a cyber-grub body is fantastic.
Hammerfall Siege Crawler:
|Siege Crawler Concept Art|
Battle Engines need to bring lots of artillery to the table in order to be useful, and the Siege Crawler does at least that. Having two POW 15, AOE 4 guns (with critical Stagger) and d3+1 POW 12 shots is a very respectable volume of fire. The Siege Crawler also has some nice supplementary rules with Bulldoze (always useful for scenario play) and Weapons Platform (a very fun rule with Battle Engines and shooting models in general). While it doesn't hit the highs of the Sacral Vault or possibly even the Vessel of Judgment, it does have a pretty solid suite of abilities for a Battle Engine.
The issue that Battle Engines run into in general (and one of the reasons that the Sacral Vault had to be so bonkers in order to get on people's radar) is that they (mostly) haven't been able to adapt to the meta shifts introduced by colossals and subsequently multi-wound infantry spam. The Siege Crawler doesn't inherently do a lot to buck that trend, but it at least seems like it is generally useful enough to see some table time. The biggest complication to that is that the Siege Crawler is fighting for space in Mercs, Cygnar, and Khador; three armies that don't feel like they have the 9 point gap available for this thing.
I've always liked the Rhulic aesthetic in general, and I think its pretty fantastic when applied to a walking tank. Given how grand and impressive the most recent Battle Engines have been, I'm guessing that the model for the Siege Crawler should be quite a sight.
The Devil's Shadow Mutineers:
This is sort of a weird rating, because practically the Devil's Shadow unit is more like "Zira and the two folks that regenerate her". Zira is an absolutely fantastic shooting model, especially when you factor in the support that you can offer her with just a couple of Merc solos (that can already support other Merc models you're bringing along). The other two models are by no means bad, but getting the unit stuck in is a pretty excellent way to get them wiped out, so this unit is likely to be used in a more cagey way, with an emphasis on their guns and regeneration. This isn't going to be nearly as nasty as something like the Black 13th, but it should still be pretty potent in the right lists.
The Devil's Shadow isn't likely to set the world on fire, but they're definitely going to be a pain to deal with. They bring a potent shooting force to any list, and some 'casters like Denny1 can really dial up what the Devil's Shadow are capable of. Add to that their ability to potentially regenerate members of the unit, and they can also play the long game fairly well (giving them scenario value). All that said, the whole unit is still contributing a relatively small amount of output (two shots from Zira and a token shot from Morland most turns), and what they bring isn't likely to dramatically shift the way people play against Cryx or Mercs.
I have no great love for the Pirate models, and I was really unimpressed by the initial concept art for these guys that popped up way back during the initial Lock & Load presentation on Reckoning. However, the final artwork and models for the unit really turned me around on the design of this trio, and I really like how the whole unit comes together. They're sort of an ideal character unit in my opinion - plenty of individuality, strong internal synergy, and a solid enough general purpose to be useful.
Swamp Gobber River Raiders:
The River Raiders have already been lambasted to hell and back by just about everyone with anyone to say about Reckoning releases, and I have nothing to bring to the table to counteract those criticisms. The best I use I can see for these little guys is as random jamming/harassment models, and even then I'd imagine that they'll be removed without too much trouble. DEF 14, ARM 12, one wound models aren't too hard to remove in general, and they're not cheap enough to spam and throw away.
The only way that River Raiders are going to end up doing anything significant in a meta sense is if: a) some release comes along that buffs them so specifically and fantastically as to make them an actual threat, or b) the inclusion of them into lists puts opponents in such a state of complacency that it leads to easy wins.
For as terrible as the River Raiders are in terms of rules, I cannot deny that the models aren't pretty great, and the idea for this set of solos is pretty neat. If they weren't so terrible, they would probably be an immediate favorite for a lot of players. As is, I'm sure they'll have their fair share of adopters and champions, much like the Skinner, Bombardiers, and other "neat idea but terribly executed" models.
Mercenaries Overall Release Rating: 3/5
Merenaries got a really weird set of releases with this book. The Cephalyx reprint collects all the rules for that contract in one easy location, and it feels pretty evident that a large portion of the design work of this release cycle went into getting Cephalyx in general together, with a fairly random assortment of Merc-y models to give this set of releases enough of an open feel to be palatable.
Taken in that light, the Cephalyx releases in general account for a significant bolstering of Mercenary capabilities and list design. Thexus and now Cphon give that contract some real diversity and power, which overall improves what Mercenaries can bring to the table from a competitive standpoint (at the standard Mercenary cost of having to invest in another sub-set of models).
Out of the remaining releases, two are pretty solid (Devil's Shadow and Siege Crawler) and one is unfortunately a fantastic misfire (River Raiders). The siloed nature of Mercs makes those releases hard to appreciate; they aren't as generally applicable as they would be in other factions. The Siege Crawler is the most widely useful, as it can be used in the Highborn, Four Star, and Searforge contracts, though those contracts also are the probably the hardest up for finding the 9 points for it (since those contracts already have access to two fantastic colossals). The Devil's Shadow meanwhile is only available in Four Star contracts, giving it a somewhat limited set of applications (though Four Star at least gives you plenty of build options).
And then there are the applications of those models in other factions. Cryx can find some uses for the Devil's Shadow; they've already proven to be a potent inclusion in Deneghra1 lists, and adding some Eyeless Sight, RAT 7 Weaponmaster guns to most Cryx lists probably isn't a bad thing. The trick is finding the 4 points of room for them, but that is more of an issue of an embarassment of riches regarding Cryx options. The Siege Crawler faces similar issues in Cygnar or Khador armies - though it isn't necessarily a bad inclusion (especially in Cygnar, where most of their buffs will still work on it), it is hard to justify 9 points spent on a Battle Engine in general nowadays, let alone an out of faction one. Time will tell if enough synergies are found to make it a more palatable choice in either other faction.
Overall, this book is definitely the "Rise of the Cephalyx" for Mercenaries. If you are a general competitive Mercenary player, or a fan of the Puppet Masters contract specficially, this is a pretty fantastic release; Cyphon alone ensures that. If you play the other contracts, this release cycle is much less exciting; likewise if you were another faction player hoping for some random awesome Mercenary models to spice up this release cycle.
Next up: Final thoughts about Warmachine: Reckoning and what it means for the future. Until then, thanks for reading!