Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Grolar Thoughts and Theory

Now that the Grolar is, despite the best efforts of Skynet, an actual goddamn model you can buy the list idea gears are stating to spin again. Turns out that the best way to spark a desire to play a game is to release new content for it periodically. Who'd have thought?

Every time I look at this picture I expect the model to slowly
fade out of existence like in Back to The Future
I played some proxy games with the Grolar when the rules first came out (back when I had to use a dinosaur egg as a proxy), but I didn't want to get into an in depth discussion about it until it was actually in hand.

With that long fabled day having finally arrived, lets take a closer look at Khador's "newest" addition to it's warjack stable. Discussion starts after the break.


The Grolar comes equipped with three weapons and, unlike some models with a mix of weaponry, it is likely to get use out of all those weapons during the course of the game. Many times, all in the same turn. This will just be a quick skim of the stats/basic purpose of each weapon. I'll dig more into the special rules for each in the next section.

 - Open Fist: the same 'ol boring Open Fist you see throughout Khador, though also not that bad of a secondary weapon thanks to the high natural STR of Khador heavies.

 - Autocannon: a ROF 5 Blunderbuss. Not at all an impressive gun on its own, but it starts to shine in context of the Grolar's rules as a whole, and what Khador can do for it with some of its spells/feats (along with possible Mercenary related jank).

 - Piston Hammer: a perfectly respectable primary weapon. No Reach, but that is a relative rarity in Khador, and I don't think anyone expected it out of that stubby hammer. Much like the Autocannon, this weapon gets a lot better in the context of its special rules.

Stats and Special Rules

The Grolar has the bog standard "Khador heavy" stat line, so it relies wholly on it's special rules to distinguish itself. Thankfully, it has an excellent set of special rules to work with:

 - Gunfighter: always a nice rule to have when you're equipped with a ranged attack, though you usually want some other rule to really make it shine. Which is why it is great that the Grolar also has...

 - Virtuoso: also a great rule to have when you have ranged attacks and it combines with Gunfighter to give the Grolar 3 initial attacks (albeit one of those is at RAT 4). I also think its very interesting and neat for a non-character warjack to have Virtuoso, though I can't explain why. More on this rule later.

 - Fleet: although the cost feels a little steep on paper - Focus can be a premium resource in Khador, and it essentially eats an attack to use it - being able to self buff movement speed is a remarkable advantage. More on this later as well.

 - Pathfinder: one of the absolute best rules on the Grolar's card, and one of the most important rules in the game. Pathfinder is crucial for melee heavies and is damn handy in general (no longer will you be thwarted by shrubs and low walls!) There are precious few heavy warjacks that have built-in Pathfinder (not a large number of heavy warnouns have it when you look at the game as a whole) and it is usually a big pain to get, typically requiring outside influence (animi, solo activations, spells from the 'caster/'lock).

 - Open Fist [Open Fist]: redundant as hell to type out, but an important rule to bear in mind. The Khadoran Open Fist is not only a decent secondary weapon; it also grants access to some useful (if situational) Power Attacks. Don't forget about Throws and Weapon Locks!

 - Autocannon [Rapid Strike]: a very interesting implementation of a rule we've seen in a few other places. Up until this point it has only been used on melee weapons where it most logically fits and is easy to understand ("that guy sure likes to hit things"). It is a pretty clever way to design a weapon with a high output of shots - instead of having to rely on random d# (+ maybe another #) rolls, you always know how many shots you'll be able to make with the Grolar. That consistency costs you Focus, but getting 4 shots for 2 Focus is a pretty nice deal. Even with the limitations of the gun (RNG 8) and the chassis (RAT 4), there are some interesting things you can pull off with this gun.

 - Piston Hammer [Ram]: a rule I was always jealous of, and am very happy to finally have. Ram is an excellent rule for a couple of reasons: automatic knock down on hit is fantastic (and has synergy with other Khador models as well as with the Grolar's own gun) and it is always nice to be able to shove enemy models around. Even if the Grolar can't kill an opposing model, it might be able to bump them out of a zone, or nudge it into a spot where another model can finish it off. Not as good as Beat Back for that purpose, but the automatic knock down more than makes up for this rule being of semi-limited use as a positioning tool.


Taken as a whole, the Grolar's special rules make it a model that is surprisingly flexible and reasonably self-contained in terms of capability.

It has built-in Pathfinder so you don't need to worry about terrain. It can self-buff speed, so it can nudge up its threat ranges with 'casters that can't buff movement/charge speed, or go that much faster with those who can.

Pathfinder allows the Grolar to easily get places other warjacks can't - over walls, through forests, through spell effects (Inhospitable Ground, Rift, etc), through wreck markers - and it can add Fleet to get there that much faster than any other Khador heavy. This has implications beyond just threat ranges; Grolars are some of the best scenario heavies Khador can bring due to their ability to (relatively) quickly redeploy to critical areas and not get hung up on terrain while doing so.

Gunfighter gives the Grolar an extra attack in melee which is by no means impressive (RAT 4, POW 12, woo hoo) but it does up its base attack volume, and it gives you a really obvious "throw away" attack to use in situations where you're charging one thing to get to another target (ex. charging your own warrior model to get into melee with an enemy model you aren't allowed to target with a charge).

Virtuoso ensures that Focus on the Grolar is almost never going to be wasted. If you happen to kill a target with less Focus than you thought you'd need, you can dump that Focus into making ranged attacks on nearby models. Not particularly terrifying ranged attacks, mind, but better than watching that Focus go to waste.

Virtuoso also opens up shenanigans aplenty, thanks to the fact that the Grolar has the melee weapons it does. You can charge a model, knock it down with the Piston Hammer, punch it, then shoot models that were hiding behind it. You can also slam a model and then buy additional shots into whatever it rolls over. You can Trample forward for distance, then buy additional shots to get some Autocannon rounds into something (most likely something knocked down/made stationary by something else).

Or you can just take an extra freebie shot on a turn when you're fighting another heavy that isn't immune to knock down. The POW 12 isn't likely to do much to most heavies, but you get to shoot once as part of your initial attacks and you're free to shoot whatever you want if your melee target is knocked down, so why not wing a shot at a random solo/warrior? Any extra kills past what you were focusing on that turn are a bonus.

Automatic knock down on hit is a fantastic special rule to have on a melee weapon. It is especially remarkable in a faction with a number of inaccurate ranged attacks, and MAT 6 warjacks in general. The Grolar only needs to hit its initial Piston Hammer attack to take accuracy out of the equation for follow up attacks. That is a big boost in expected damage against many targets - even attacking DEF 10 with MAT 6 leads to periodic misses (or more, if you have an unlucky streak) - and its a huge boon for the Grolar's possible output against higher DEF targets (especially 'casters and 'locks if you can get there).

The Autocannon has a very dinky stat line, but ROF 5 with Dual Strike opens up options based on sheer volume of fire. Any increase you can give the Grolar in accuracy or damage (by buffing it, debuffin enemies, or both if you're going nuts) can be that much more valuable when you're able to capitalize on it 5 times with one activation. The Autocannon is not the main reason to take the Grolar (or I'd argue even a secondary reason to take it) but it does give you an interesting ranged option that can have decent applications based on the 'caster you're using and how the game plays out.

Taken as a whole, the Grolar is a fairly flexible heavy that can do a number of different things with the tools it brings to the table. None of those things are amazing on their own, but they give you solid bases to work with and can quickly scale up to "amazing" levels with the various buffs that Khador 'casters can give it. It is a fairly Focus hungry warjack, but almost all heavy warjacks are. Unlike a lot of other heavies in Khador, Focus on the Grolar will rarely go to waste - Fleet and ROF 5 give you easy ways to spend "extra" Focus it ends up with.

What it really wants are the same things as all other Khador heavies: free charges, accuracy buffs, and any damage increase it can get. Free charges in particular are remarkable because it can work as a pseudo refund on the cost of Fleet, allowing the Grolar to charge long distance without draining 2/3 of its Focus to do so. Great for initiating piece trade situations, or to close the gap from the back field or a flank.

Warcaster Specific Thoughts
In "this is how I think of Khador 'casters" order:

 - Sorscha1: Has one of the best DEF debuffs in the game (handing out Stationary via feat or Freezing Grip) and thus can let you get some real mileage out of the Grolar's gun. Also has Boundless Charge, so she can set up some really long range charges with Fleet. Doesn't necessarily want to fuel the Grolar herself (might manage one; two is almost certainly too much of a drain) so may seek outside help from a Koldun Lord or Malakov.

 - Sorscha2: Still has Boundless Charge for super-long charge ranges, and can make those charges hurt quite a bit with her feat. Ram on the Piston Hammer can set up low accuracy, high damage follow up shots from things like Mortars/Victor/Conquest and the feat can make those shots hurt more. An okay target for her warjack bond as it gives the Grolar more Focus to work with, but it isn't too likely to get use out of the freezing portion of it.

 - Vlad1: Signs & Portents is always great and can be one of the better ways to get a decent round of Autocannon shooting in, and is as always a great general boost to accuracy and expected damage. Feat + Boundless Charge + Fleet = 15" charges. Or, Feat + Fleet = 18" threat range on Autocannon shots (much less likely to produce a lot, but worth filing away for that 1 in a 100 games when it ends up being relevant).

 - Vlad2: Assail is kinda-sorta an upkeepable Boundless Charge, with most of the same applications. Assail also increases in Slam distance gives the Grolar some enhanced "Slam + shoot stuff behind it" shenanigans. The Grolar's innate Pathfinder is a help here as Vlad2 can't dole out Pathfinder to his warjacks. Hand of Fate is a nice buff but over writes Assail and is likely to do more work across a unit, making HoF more of a circumstantial buff.

 - Vlad3: Same HoF interactions, this time with Infernal Machine as the "clash" spell. The good news is that Infernal Machine is cheaper than Assail, so it is easier to get out there or cast on a turn you want to charge in, but the bad news is that you lose out on free charges. +2 MAT is very nice; doesn't matter usually after the first Piston Hammer hit, but helps against targets immune to knock down and helps you to land that first hit in the first place. The Grolar has interesting possibilities with Vlad3's feat with the different attacks it is capable of and has two initial melee attacks for good Side Step capabilities. Innate Pathfinder is, as with Vlad2, a big help.

 - Butcher1: Really appreciates Pathfinder and Fleet as they help with two of the biggest problems his battlegroup models run into. Full Throttle can be an expensive way to get free charges (works best if you have a big battlegroup) and buffs melee accuracy for kicks. Fury kicks the Grolar's melee output to heavy killing levels, and the feat takes it another step further. It may also be possible to combine Butcher1's feat with DEF/ARM debuffs on a heavy target to heavily damage/remove it with Autocannon shots, but that may be too far into the "cute jank" category.

 - Butcher2: Free charges all the time (essentially), MAT and SPD buffs for further and more effective charges, and Butcher2 still has Boundless Charge and Fury to set up some really nasty long range Grolar charges. The Piston Hammer also opens up some really nasty run-assassinations with Butcher2's feat, between the knock down for auto-hitting melee attacks and pushes to potentially get a 'caster/'lock closer to other models that can finish it off.

 - Butcher3: Energizer adds more threat to the Grolar without having to Fleet (or a 12" charge if you stack Fleet in there too) and Silence of Death helps when trying to trade heavies with warbeasts. Native Pathfinder is very handy here as well.

 - Irusk1: Superiority is a great buff that the Grolar can build off of with Fleet for high threat ranges or long range zone/flag runs (14" run with Fleet!). Irusk1 appreciates the built-in Pathfinder, though amusingly does not in the mirror match.

 - Irusk2: Energizer can extend the Grolar's threat range as needed, and while Irusk2 has ways to dole out Pathfinder, its nice that he doesn't have to for the Grolar (since it otherwise requires a feat or 3 Focus cost spell). Not a bad target for Irusk2's warjack bond - the Grolar can build off of the +2 DEF by hiding in forests/behind walls that would confound another heavy, and being able to allocate it 4 Focus allows the Grolar to Fleet and then charge in with 2 Focus for follow up attacks. Also might be possible to get more use out of the Autocannon by using Tactical Supremacy to retreat after shooting, but that feels like something that will come up extremely rarely.

 - Zerkova1: Pathfinder and Fleet are significant traits for her as she doesn't do anything to directly help her battlegroup's mobility. Watcher allows for psuedo-threat range extension depending on the situation, and auto-KD on a Watcher attack is a proven "very good thing" for messing with your opponent's plans. Fleet makes the Grolar one of the better Force Blast enablers and Icy Grip works as a relative accuracy buff against the Autocannon's preferred target (units of enemy infantry).

 - Zerkova2: As with her previous incarnation, Pathfinder and Fleet are very valuable since she doesn't help out with mobility otherwise. Hoarfrost crits and Occult Whisper guided Ice Cages can lower DEF on key targets to make it easier for the Grolar to hit (biggest against high DEF, low ARM 'casters/'locks). Sacrificial Lamb makes it slightly easier for Zerkova2 to fuel her battlegroup if taking multiple heavies letting the Grolar more consistently get the 2+ Focus it wants most turns (especially since the Koldun Lord can Power Boost beforehand). Fleet helps get it into more aggressive positions if you want to use it as a Telgesh Mark target.

 - Karchev: Native Pathfinder reduces the need for Karchev to pop feat for a big offensive push. If you can afford to use the feat (i.e. don't need to Tow + run) the Grolar appreciates the free charge. Auto KD reduces the need to use Unearthly Rage to improve accuracy against high DEF targets (not immune to KD) making assassination runs in particular more potent. Fleet combined with run + Tow gives the Grolar a massive threat range.

 - Old Witch: Fleet helps to off set Old Witch's lack of a movement buff (she can try to drag things in with Gallows but that is a very risky play most of the time and a significant Focus drain). Native Pathfinder allows the Grolar to really exploit forests thanks to Augury. Also possible to protect the Grolar with Murder of Crows/feat after it goes in (or, heaven help you, tries to shoot stuff). Auto KD helps in general with Old Witch's inability to buff her non-Scrapjack battlegroup (could also lead to interesting follow ups via Augury shots from battlegroup models).

 - Strakov: Auto KD helps a lot as Strakov's only battlegroup related accuracy buff is a) expensive as hell and b) a single target upkeep. Fleet can result in even longer threat ranges on feat turn, or even on non feat turns via Overrun (which the Grolar has an okay chance of proc'ing itself with 3 initial attacks). One of the most amusingly terrible Sentry targets available in the faction.

 - Harkevich: Escort gives the Grolar a better base MOV, allowing it to cover remarkable distances with Fleet. Auto KD helps with melee as Harkevich (like Strakov) only has a single target upkeep spell to help with warjack accuracy. Fortune has a lot of potential on a Grolar with its ability to make a high number of attacks each activation (and helps make that KD melee attack more accurate).

Looking across the warcasters as a whole, every 'caster gets something out of the Grolar and several of Khador's 'casters can really make the Grolar hum. The minimum of auto-KD on a melee weapon, native Pathfinder, and Fleet give it a solid melee base that any 'caster can appreciate, and anyone that can dial up that speed (or give it free charges) and/or buff its general accuracy and damage output can get a lot out of what the Grolar brings to the table.

Closing Thoughts:
I've been very impressed with the Grolar, both with early testing and with continued use of it. It has the same issues that plague Khador warjacks as a whole - relatively low accuracy, low speed, heavy drain on Focus for output - but it brings a solid suite of tools to the table that end up being flexible enough to always be of use. While it may not measure up to the same bar as the Protectorate's Reckoner, I do think it fulfills a similar role: it has enough flexibility and general efficacy to be a very compelling battlegroup choice in just about any list. If you have 9 points left and are still considering battlegroup models, you can do a helluva lot worse than a Grolar.

Now I just need to paint the damn thing. 5th Border Legion scheme 4 lyfe.

Until next time, thanks very much for reading!


  1. Reading the grolar stats, I always think of Butcher I and Vlad III. Want a fast jack that can keep up with Vlad III and seriously benefit from his feat? Grolar is perfect. Need a couple jacks that will seriously benefit from full throttle? Grolar will make it happen. I still don’t like the model but it is a serious strategic step forward for the faction.

    1. Agreed. Butcher1 seems like a fantastic place for a Grolar or two. Butcher1 does a lot to multiply volume of attacks and the Grolar kick out a fair share of damage rolls. I'm still really interested in seeing what you could do with a more battlegroup heavy Butcher1 list, probably now with a mix of Grolars and clamjacks. Would be fun. :)