Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thoughts on PP's Mini-2016 Keynote

Privateer Press's Primecast podcast was kind enough to offer up a bevvy of spoilers recently, courtesy of Matt Wilson and Jason Soles talking about the next round of 'casters and 'locks, as well some random tidbits for later in the year. 

I put together a quick and dirty synopsis of what was discussed during the podcast here. Now that I've had some time to digest what they talked about, lets kick around some thoughts about what all that info might mean.

Musings start after the break.

Going in the order of Primecast discussion. Also, all the names will almost certainly be spelled wrong. I blame the vagaries of fantasy naming; even if I guess it right phonetically, nothing is stopping PP from throwing me off by getting cute with spelling.

Protectorate of Menoth:
Malikus sounds interesting. I agree with what others have said in that even though he is described as being very large, there is nothing saying that he'll have above average melee output. I don't think he'll be a slouch, but I'd also be surprised if the devs dropped another medium based, high P+S Weaponmaster 'caster immediately after Durst. I'm sure he'll be a solid closer/anchor nonetheless, just based on how they describe him.

Malikus also has the benefit of getting one of the deepest set of descriptions of any of the 'caster/'locks, thanks to being first on the docket. From those descriptions, we can take a stab at some possible rules for him.

His feat is described as being a "Butcher like escalation of flames", which would almost certainly translate to a bonus die or flat number buff to fire damage. PoM has plenty of that to go around, so right out of the gate its easy to think of nasty ways to apply Malikus' feat. If nothing else, its a hellvua way to bring the Protectorate gunline back (yay?)

Related to that is the teaser that he does something "Broadsides Bart like" to his battlegroup, referring to their output. Most literally, this could be the spell Broadsides, which would be horrifically effective with some of the guns Protectorate can bring (along with the support to buff them/get even more shots). Alternatively, they could be hinting at Hot Shot, which isn't too exciting on the regular Protectorate warjacks, but would be damn potent on either of Protectorate's colossals. 

Finally, a game I like to play called "What is their Focus stat?" A very safe bet with Protectorate 'casters is 6, and I'd be surprised if Malikus was much higher than that. He sounds like a meaty, mid-line 'caster, and if he has any melee potential he's not likely to go above 6 (gotta be Cryxian/Legion for that) on top of the fact that nothing in his description makes him sound particularly savvy as a spellcaster. 

Ragnar Skysplitter is where we see an almost immediate drop off in rules teasers. All we know about this guy (trollblood) is that he is: large, carries a large maul, and commands the earth. Two of those things aren't particularly remarkable in Trollbloods - Horthol and Skaldi both fit that description - and there are even plenty of models that command the earth in some regard.

That said, the combination of everything, along with having the latitude afforded a warlock to have cooler/more powerful rules, means that Ragnar is probably going to be a far sight more interesting than "Runeshaper with a big hammer". The phrase "explosive earthquakes" alone makes him sound pretty interesting (assuming that hints at a new spell and not just, y'know, Earthquake). 

"What's his Fury stat?": Trollbloods are always a hard one to judge. Based on history, I'd lean more towards a 6. I don't think they'd drop him all the way to 5 (seems to be reserved for the brawlers, which doesn't fit his description). I also don't think a 7 is likely (seems to be the realm of the frail/heavy spellcasters) though I think there is an outside possibility of it happening just to shake up the Trollblood 'caster stats a bit. All that said, I'd expect a 6 and be pleasantly surprised if this guy put in extra time at the library.

Major Maddux (I like my spelling the best) is a 'caster I could have really gotten behind 4, maybe 5 years ago. A dedicated Storm Knight 'caster sounds like an awesome idea for a lot of reasons: she can bring more melee to a faction that sometimes struggles for consistent, strong damage output, she can potentially encourage the use of Storm Knight models (outside of the Storm Lances), and she could be a pretty sweet model.

All of that assumes a certain level of faith in PP's design consistency that I have lost over the years. Major Maddux (never changing that) has a lot of potential, but then again so did Kara Sloan, Constance Blaize, and Lord Commander Stryker (Stryker3). But each and every time the devs zigged when they should have zagged, or blinked when they probably shouldn't have, and we ended up with a bunch of 'casters that are "okay....I guess?" Decent at a casual level, but not really exciting, and not at all a factor in the competitive meta (which may or may not matter to the average player).

Maddux is a 'caster with a lot of potential, and I hope like hell they pull it off. I'd tolerate Mk. 1 Vlad2 levels of absurd over-poweredness (or Mk. 2 Morvhanna2 for a more recent example) if it meant that they finally nailed a concept and delivered something really cool and impressive. Anything but another boring-but-I-guess-okay-in-some-matchups entry for Cygnar.

"What's her Focus stat?": 6 or bust. Cygnar has 6's for days, and nothing about the new Major makes me think that she'll be any higher than all of her more martial brethren. If I had more faith in them getting it right, I'd almost wish for her to be Focus 5, with an absolutely gangbusters set of abilities to make up for it. But that doesn't really fit Cygnar (with some of the best trained warcasters in the setting) and I have zero faith in PP making a good, new 5 stat 'caster/'lock (so many of the existing ones are kinda junky).

Bane Witch Agathea is very interesting to me. Cryx's Mk. 2 'caster releases have been very coin-flippy in terms of quality of final rules. Its hard to distinguish yourself when the faction has a really potent upper level bench like Cryx does (a problem that everyone is sort of struggling with as Mk. 2 drags on), but 'casters like Goreshade3, Deneghra3, and to an extent Asphyxious3 are solid entries that would be the kings and queens of other factions, whereas entries like Scaverous, Venethrax, and Sturgis2 feel right at home in the "Mk. 2 design" camp.

So the question then becomes: where does Agathea fall on the spectrum? She certainly has the potential to be interesting - her general description makes her sound like an aggressive melee 'caster, which is an archetype that doesn't show up often in Cryx - but it also has the potential to fall flat - none of Cryx's "melee" 'casters have really resonated over time, and anything that tries to force more models into the Cryxian battlegroup usually doesn't go well. She has a helluvan army backing her up, so Agathea will be coming into the game with a lot to work with, but she also has some extremely stiff competition.

"What's her Focus stat?": 6. Everything about her seems to posit her as an aggressive, melee oriented 'caster, and 6 seems to be the sweet spot for making a really good one of those. All that said, it is Cryx, and Venethrax warped my mind when he came out with a 7, so all bets are off. It is also perfectly possible (and probably likely) that Agathea is more of a hybrid and thus will be pretty good in melee and still pretty good at spellcasting which would also rate her at a 7.

Tannith the Feralsong. I have a hard time hearing about a new Circle warlock at this point without getting the shakes. Grayle was a wonderful misdirection on the part of the designers; after that (and to a lesser extent, Baldur2) I never would have expected the nukes that were Morvhanna2 and Bradigus.

So of course my expectation is for her to effortlessly roll over my hopes and dreams. However, balance gods permitting, that does not need to be a foregone conclusion. Tannith has a lot of potential to be very interesting and fun - a different, more aggressive, and more vicious take on Kaya could be awesome. She also doesn't sound like she necessarily be as battlegroup focused; the little bit of info they let slip about her makes Tannith sound like equal parts spellcaster and battlegroup enabler (which makes a lot of sense for someone inspired from the Blackclads).

Tannith also marks the point where the drip of information pretty much dries up (or turns into total fluff talk, which is adorable but not terribly useful for speculation purposes).

"What's her Fury stat?": 6. Circle is Cygnar but green. They exemplify that sort of "above average consistency" in their warlock capabilities, and a 6 gives Tannith enough wiggle room to have some cool personal capabilities, while also kicking out some potent spells. I could see her creeping up to a 7 if she is more spell-castery, but they paint her as more battlegroup oriented and aggressive, which seems to be the realm of the 6. PP also paints everyone as battlegroup oriented and aggressive when they talk about them, so I also don't place a ton of stock in their talking points.

Magister Helena is a warcaster I can get behind. Part time wizard, part arcane mechanik, and supposedly someone that is going to come along and tune up Retribution myrmidons. All of that sounds like a lot of fun, and there is a lot they can do with that archetype. It is also what makes her almost impossible to guess at; there is a huge bevvy of battlegroup buffs and effects that she can draw from, and the time wizards tie-in lets her dip her toe into the ample realm of control (or possibly enhancement, looking at some of Haley's spells).

At bare minimum, Helena has the opportunity to bring something to Retribution that they are pretty short on: lists based on a strong battlegroup presence. Vyros2 ended up filling that spot, kinda-sorta, but I also don't think he was intended to do it quite like that, and it isn't the same has having something that runs like a PoM/Hordes army in terms of battlegroup output and efficacy.

That archetype is also really easy to screw up. A battlegroup 'caster for an army needs to be able to either enhance their already capable battlegroup models (most common on the Hordes side) or patch up the deficiencies that their battlegroup has (more common WM approach). Retribution is similar to Khador and Cryx in that part of the problem with a battlegroup approach with that faction is that they don't have a great base of warjacks to draw on (give or take some characters and the colossals). Can PP overcome that problem? Based on their track record in WM, probably not. But I do sure hope so.

"What's her Focus stat?": 6. Retribution is a little all over the grid in terms of Focus stats, but they follow similar trends to other factions, and the "battlegroup buddy" stat always seems to be 6. I could see Helena peaking above that since her faction is more arcane adept, and lord knows those myrmidons will need every lick of focus/spell help they can get.

Beastmaster Zakaar (I'll never spell that name the same way twice until an official spelling is posted) has the amusing distinction of having been jobbed previously in the fluff, but he apparently walked it off and is back with a vengeance. Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things, but it is amusing (and one of the few things that the PP folks were willing to discuss with him).

Aside from that, we know that he is a Paingiver style warlock, that he has two whips, that he is a Weaponmaster, and that he can somehow cast spells at things he hit with his whips (possibly similar to Lylyth1's Witch Mark, if not the exact same ability). Other than that, we don't have much to go on, but based on his archetype I'd assume he's all about giving and receiving pain, and probably spinning up his battlegroup to do bad things (because Skorne's weakest aspect has always been the output of it's battlegroup).

"What's his Focus stat?": 5. Skorne is very similar to Protectorate in their 'caster primary stats; they are all over the chart. I could see Zakaar going as high as a 6 with his Fury stat (similar to other mid-line-ish battlegroup 'locks) but the last melee centric Paingiver styled 'lock Skorne got was also a 5, so I'm just going off of patterns here.

If nothing else, the newest Khador 'caster coming down the pike (har) has an impressive name: Lord Karslov, Viscount of Skaarsguard (sics everywhere I'm sure). He also has a really nice cloak and a big axe, which shouldn't surprise anyone that has clicked through the Khador model gallery (or, indeed, PP's model gallery at large).

We also know that Karslov started out conceptually as an Iron Fang warcaster, but we don't know what that even really means in terms of rules. The way Soles and Wilson talked about it, I got the impression that version of Karslov was the early inspiration; it wouldn't surprise me at all if he had taken a few steps away from being an "Iron Fang 'caster" in the literal sense (i.e. works thematically with Iron Fangs) and has it as more of a thematic tie now.

Being at the end of the discussion, Karslov gets very little in the way of information. He's apparently a "man of the people" or something like that, which could mean that he's a nice guy, or that he's an infantry buffer. He also has a big axe, so odds are fair that he'll be decent in melee (especially if he has a stat line comparable to the IFK). My hope is that they spoke about him the least because he'll be one of the first released, because otherwise we're in a long wait for info about this guy.

"What's his Focus stat?": 6. Khador loves them some 6's for Focus stats. So much so that almost every 'caster in Mk. 2 has had that as their stat (only Vlad3 and Zerkova2 bucked the trend). 6 is the stat most commonly associated with a decent mid-line 'caster, which certainly seems to fit what this guy is aiming for. 7 means that his axe is made of cardboard, 5 means I vomit and don't buy him.

Krissa (almost certainly spelled "Kyrissya", or something bananas) has the honor of hanging out with Karslov at the butt-end of the new 'caster/'lock discussion, which means she gets very little spoiled about her actual rules, but plenty spoken about her fluff. While I stopped really caring about PP's fluff awhile ago, I do appreciate that they're trying to do something new with the Legion warlocks as they go on. Kallus was a nice surprise, and Krissa's story at least slightly shakes up the same 'ol "got athanc, now a dragon warrior" story. Or so the Primecast made it sound.

The only thing we know about Krissa that gives any hint whatsoever about her rules is that she is based on the Legionnaires. That could mean any number of things, but it most likely implies that she has a leaning towards: defensive sturdiness, personal combat capability, retributive reaction abilities/spells/feat, and quite possibly a leaning towards the oft-neglected Legion infantry.

 I'd be excited as hell for her if I still played Legion, but I can see her being absorbed by the "Cryx curse" and languishing on the shelves (especially as Croak Raiders replace most faction line infantry, and the game as a whole continues to lather hate upon single wound infantry in general).

"What's her Fury stat?": 6. Another 'lock that sounds like a mid-line, worker type 'caster, another strong candidate for the "silver medal" of Focus/Fury stats.

General Thoughts:
 - Caine3 is a horrifying thought. I'd love to believe that the Mk. 2 curse would strike him down and make him impotent, but he also seems like an archetype that is hard to screw up. I fully expect him to be a royal pain in the ass, though I'm curious as to how they plan to distinguish him from his other incarnations (since one is a premier board sweeper and the other is nigh-unparalleled at single target destruction).

 - More gunmages makes me vomit in my throat a little, but only a little. Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Pistoleers are the actual scourge that everyone hates, and it is unlikely that either of the two new types of special gun wielders - the Thorn Gun Mages or the Satyxis Gunslingers - are going to be as capable as they are. I certainly am not looking forward to more of that archetype, but I can also probably handle them if they don't have the same omnipotent kit. All the more reason to trust in Victor.

The most interesting thing about the new batch of gunmages is absolutely the Mercenary unit. That allows most Cygnar armies to run that many more gunmages (and they have the most Deadeye 'casters out of anyone), and most interestingly it allows Protectorate to dip their toe into having a legit shooting unit that doesn't have some wonky downside (Errants excepted, but they're not even really a shooting unit). Suddenly that Attendant Priest is looking a lot more useful, especially depending on the kinds of special bullets this new unit brings to the table.

 - Speaking of Mercs, there was no mention of a new Mercenary 'caster in that bunch, which is sort of a bummer. Ditto for Minions. And Convergence, though were known to be a more bounded faction from the start.

 - Caine3 being mentioned as coming out this year is very interesting. They specifically mention that he is coming out late in the year, while the other 'casters/'locks are releasing all throughout the year. Two possibilities: 1) two 'casters/'locks in whatever the book is this cycle, or 2) Caine3 is part of the next cycle of 'casters/'locks, and that is looking to kick off at the end of the year. #2 feels more likely, and it also implies that PP may be looking to blend their release schedule a little more (i.e. less of a rough division between book releases and more of a consistent release cycle throughout the year). 

 - The mention of more units coming out, coupled with the style of 'caster coming out for Khador, reminded me of a tidbit from way back when the IFK was coming out: PP mentioned back then that there were Iron Fangs that were looking to take up the axe, like their Great Bear brethren, and that we would see units of axe wielding Iron Fangs in the future. Now would be as good a time as any to bring that unit out, both from a fluff perspective and as a way to possibly inject some new energy into the faction.

 - Speaking as a Khador player, Karslov feels me with cold dread. We have no actual rules spoilers to actually go off of to frame speculation, so at this point all we know is that he has an axe and is a warcaster. My gut says that Karslov isn't going to buck the trend of 'casters in Khador that lean way more towards running infantry than warjacks, so all we can do is hope that he does so in an interesting way. There are a wealth of possibilities; it all boils down to what PP is willing to do with/for Khador right now.

 - Looking at all of the new 'casters and 'locks, I get a sense of "Mk. 2". Not in the literal, edition sense, but in the actual iteration sense. Most of the descriptors of these 'casters/'locks make them sound like new versions of old 'caster/'locks (many of which are bringing up the bench). Malikus = Reznik1 redux. Agathea = Goreshade1 redux. Karslov = Irusk1 redux. Maddux = Stryker1 redux. You even hear it in how they describe a lot of the 'casters/'locks in the Primecast. It isn't a perfect mapping (some of these guys/gals seem to be totally fresh takes), but I think that description fits a decent chunk of the new crop.

I'm not against it either, honestly. With the way PP's releases work, there is only so much you can do to keep some 'casters relevant. If you want that style of 'caster to remain in the meta, sometimes you just need to reinvent them from the ground up. Epics give you one way to do that (and they've done it pretty awesomely in a few cases) but for the most part these sound like modern do-overs. Assuming they can get it right, I'd love to see a 'caster in the style of Irusk1 that can play more effectively in the current version of the game.


I think I've wrung about all I can out of those few scraps of info. I do appreciate having something to go off of in terms of what to expect out of WM/H for the coming year. Now if PP can just give me a release date for the Victor and Rager, I'll be a pretty content guy. Give or take some pre-dread for Karslov and the potential of the MoW solo teased in the league art.

Thanks for reading!


  1. I am at the point where I would really like to see MK III. Nothing against this new crop of casters per say—just the options available to each faction are really showing their age. I absolutely love MOW and they haven’t been a factor in a long time despite a new theme force and possibly a new character support model. I don’t expect PP to remake the game on my behalf—but I look at all the factions and there is a lot of dead weight out there. I would think they would do better to remake the game and catch up on their production schedule—some items of which are criminally late. The model range is huge for most factions—I am beginning to wonder how much longer they can keep up this release schedule (one book per year per system) before the field becomes too cluttered to support their business model.

    1. I agree with the desire for a Mk. 3 and the production concerns. For good or ill, it seems like PP is full steam ahead with WM in the coming year (no pun intended) so I'm not sure a Mk. 3 is in the cards anytime soon.

      Unless they pull a complete surprise and these new 'casters are what will be the first crop of new 'casters in Mk. 3 (sort of how the "Forces of" 'casters were in Mk. 2). Unlikely, but I suppose it is possible.

      The production issues are really frustrating. Khador hasn't really had any big shake ups since Butcher3, but they have had a few really solid releases - Grolar, Rager, and Victor - which would have been great to get anytime near their actual release date. Its been so long for all of those at this point that I sometimes even forget they're an option.

      I think there is hope for some increased relevance for things like MoW and AKs. The hard/frustrating part is that PP needs to give them the right support to turn them around. Even then, as you said, there is still a lot of dead weight in most factions. But nothing short of an edition revision is likely to sort that out and as mentioned it feels unlikely that is going to happen in 2016.

      At this point I'll just take whatever I can get. If the MoW solo get 2/3 of the MoW I have back on the table consistently, I'll be a very happy camper (Bombardiers are dead to me). If the MoW solo sucks, this may turn into an Infinity/Malifaux/Yomi blog. ;)

  2. I'm wondering what Karslov's unique spell will be. They've been quite reliable with regards to putting those out there.

    1. Things like the greater incidents of unique spells and abilities give me more hope for Karslov than I have had for 'casters in a long time. I feel like being shackled to the "simplicity" of early Mk. 2 really hurt Strakov and Harkevich (much more so the former than the latter).

      I think having some completely new element (whether its spells or special rules) is really crucial for a new 'caster to have an impact at this point in the life of WM/H. If nothing else it gives them a way to stand out from the pack (and being the 16th 'caster in the faction means he's going to have a lot to be compared against).

      I remain overall cautiously optimistic. Butcher3 and Zerkova2 have great rule sets (even if I can't really use the former effectively and the latter is a bit janked up by meta/army selection issues) and the last two release cycles have overall had great releases in them (the Mad Dog is the only legit downer IMO, and I didn't have any expectations for it so I don't care much).

      This is the most faith I've had in PP to get key releases right for Khador. But I also can't forget some of the early Mk. 2 missteps, so I'm couching all expectations. :)

  3. I'm very strongly looking forward to Bane Lich Agathea, but Zaakaar does not do it for me. I don't know what it is. Honestly, I just don't know what to expect for any faction anymore. Kara Sloan, gods bless her, broke my capacity to understand or fathom how models will actually work. She reads like a hunter-killer, she maths like a hunter-killer, but is exceptionally poor at it. One day, maybe, I'll have the same brain. Until then, though, I'm just going to hold onto my pants and see what comes forth!

    1. You are not alone my friend. :)

      I'm not sure if its the same for you, but I'm still suffering from a bit of early Mk. 2 'caster "awesome concept, missed execution" shell shock. Sloan is a great example: just looking at her concept art and knowing her faction, you'd think she'd be a goddess of death. But she ended up being a kinda worse Siege?

      Same thing with the likes of Strakov, Nareesh, Grayle; lots of potential, but they couldn't stick the rules landing.

      So, even with PP having a pretty fantastic track record for recent 'casters/'locks (the only honestly bad one I can think of from the last few books is Reznik2) it is hard to hear about new 'caster/'lock concepts and not be just a little nervous. :)