Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thinking Cap: Privateers

I love my pirates and now that the local Warmachine/Hordes league is winding down, I'm really excited to get back to painting these guys (although I have to finish grading first...).  Lately I've been poring through the Mercenaries book trying to find some hidden gems that I might not have noticed before.  My studies have been focused particularly on building synergy for my Fiona list, to see if there are any ways in which I can tweak it and make it stronger.  Ideally, I'd love to use this list in a tournament but character restriction makes it difficult for me to take models that I might want to take in another list instead, and that has made decisions more difficult.  One of the reasons is that the privateer models are notorious for their potential synergy with all of their solos.  Each solo is respectable on their own but the fact that they all offer some benefit to other models is what makes the pirates competitive.  However, I've brought up before in my list building that I think that Press Gangers are superior to Sea Dogs in many ways and today I want to illustrate why, by looking at some of the synergy 'packages' offered to them.

I also like the models better
First let's look at the general picture of them: DEF 13, crappy ARM, MAT 5 P+S 9 hand weapons, Gang, Advance Deploy, Tough, Shanghai (only useful with Sea Dog Crew nearby) and they have a Lass (an officer, so she won't be replaced when she dies) with CMD 8 and she sports Seduction!  All this in a full unit for 6 points.  While the P+S 9, even with Gang is not terribly impressive, their greatest asset is their a) cheap cost and b) Tough.

Let's compare with the Sea Dog Crew: DEF 13, crappy ARM, MAT 5 P+S 8 hand weapons, Gang, RNG 8 POW 10 pistol (only RAT 4), Point Blank so they can use the pistol in melee, CMD 7... and that's it, for a full unit that costs 8 points.  The Sea Dog Crew are arguably worse than the Press Gangers.  They do have a higher damage output with 2 initial attacks but they also don't have Tough nor Advance Deploy and their lower CMD score not only means they'll flee more easily but that their formation has to be tighter.  Granted, they can take Mr. Walls, the Quartermaster, he only makes them more expensive than they already are.

Then again, the greatest strength of the pirates, as I said, is their synergy, so let's look at some of the models we'll be interested in looking at.

Mr. Walls - Mr. Walls is basically a privateer solo that's exclusive to the Sea Dog Crew.  He is pretty awesome, rocking two POW 12 pistols and a higher MAT than the Sea Dogs while still benefitting from Gang.  What he really offers is a mini-feat which grants Fearless, Pathfinder, Terror and +2" of movement when charging.  He also offers the Sea Dogs Advance Deploy and CMD 8, putting them a little bit on the same playing field as the Press Gangers.

Bosun Grogspar - a pretty awesome 2 point solo here (but that's for another time), he prevents all friendly privateer models from getting knocked down.  This means that Press Gangers will stay DEF 13 when they pass their Tough checks!

Doc Killingsworth - the Doc is useful for his healing abilities occasionally, but what's really great is No, I'm Fine, which means that friendly privateer models make their Tough rolls on a 4+ instead of a 5+.  Another solid boon for the Press Gangers!

First Mate Hawk - this chick is a whirlwind of death!  Aside from her combat abilities, she has Inspiration [Sea Dogs] to make Sea Dog units (note: it doesn't say not Sea Dog Crew) fearless and she also sports Object of Desire which gives an additional damage die to Sea Dog (again, not Sea Dog Crew) Hand Weapon attacks against warrior models.  It's a little deceiving here, but since Press Gangers have both Hand Weapons and are a Sea Dog unit, they do benefit from First Mate Hawk's synergy as well as the Sea Dog Crew.  While the Crew also has pistols, they won't benefit from the additional die because they aren't 'Hand Weapons'.

Lord Rockbottom - This guy is what makes the Crew [almost] worth it.  He has 5 coins that he can use during the game, spending each coin gives a different effect to a friendly Sea Dog unit.  The three effects are: 1) +2 ranged attack and damage rolls, 2) boosted melee attack rolls and 1" advance after destroying a model, and 3) gain Tough for one round.  While nothing says that Press Gangers can't benefit from the coins, only effect #2 would see any use.  Sea Dog Crew, on the other hand, can benefit heavily from this guy - suddenly making them just as durable as Press Gangers and capable of putting out some hurt.  Note, though, that a unit can only benefit from one of the effects per turn so Press Gangers will still win out in the end for durability.

So here's what I want to do next.  Let's list the models and synergy elements to compare what they are capable of for their point costs.  Apparently, I am quite biased about Press Gangers, but I do want to illustrate why:

Press Gangers (full, 6)
Doc Killingsworth (2)
First Mate Hawk (2)
Bosun Grogspar (2)
Total: 12 points

Sea Dog Crew (full, 8)
- Mr. Walls, Quartermaster (2)
Doc Killingsworth (2)
First Mate Hawk (2)
Bosun Grogspar (2)
Lord Rockbottom (2)
Total: 18 points

So for 6 extra points, if we had Rockbottom give the Sea Dog Crew Tough every turn, what would the differences be?
- Press Gangers have +1 P+S but the Sea Dogs have an extra melee attack at P+S 12 (if in Gang range)
- Mr. Walls gives a mini-feat of Fearless, Pathfinder, Terror, and +2" movement for one turn
... And that's pretty much it.  In other words, for the cost of a Freebooter, you get a mini-feat (granted, it's pretty awesome) and an extra attack at MAT 5, POW 10 (granted it's better with Gang).  Sure, the Sea Dogs can shoot their guns too, but if you're in 8" range and you aren't charging then you're only going to be RAT 4 which struggles to hit even heavy warjacks.

I'm not trying to say that I'll never take the Sea Dogs - they clearly have a defined purpose of removing enemy infantry fairly well - but they are just too expensive to make them truly effective for my tastes.  18 points is a tough pill to swallow (no pun intended) whereas the 12 point investment of the Press Gangers is a little more understandable when you consider the benefits those solos have on the rest of the army.  I'm really looking at whether I can find the room for Hawk and Grogspar in my 35 point Fiona list because I think that they would make solid additions but it's pretty tight as it is.
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