Saturday, October 24, 2015

Digging into Trenchers

Greetings Gentlereaders,

I've been listening to a pretty good podcast on WWI called History of the Great War and all that talk of trench warfare makes me want to talk about one of the Cygnar units I got with my army.  They haven't hit the table yet for me because I thought they were overpriced chaff, but then Haley3 came out and people started raving about them.  I'm still not sure about it, but I'm also timed out of table time, so sadly I can only throw out my thoughts and see what you think.  And these guys are surprisingly deep for models that don't see much table time.  Guess we can blame the availability of mercenaries, taking jobs away from hardworking Cygnaran models.  Anyway, let's dig in and see what's in there.

The first thing that struck me about trenchers is that they cost appropriately for elite infantry, but have the base defensive stats of a praetorian swordsman less one point of armor.  These guys are pretty flimsy going off their base stats.  They've got a better than standard MAT with standard RAT and SPD.  For their price, they need to have a lot of text on their cards to make them worthwhile with those stats.  Thankfully they have plenty: AD, CRA, two star actions on the back, and an order.  Their weapon attachment turns his rifle into an AoE attack, but prevents him from participating in a CRA.  Whoo boy, that's a lot of flavor and options, so now we need to look a how we can use all that to get your considerable money's worth out of these guys.  Short version: If you're making a standard combat action with these guys, you might have a debuff on your trenchers.  Please don't be a basic infantry model, do something with a special rule attached.

Today, IKRPG, tomorrow official rules?
Their trademark ability, Dig In, allows them to essentially build trenches around their bases.  They gain cover, don't block line of sight, and don't suffer blast damage until they either move or are engaged.  This raises their defense against shooting from a mediocre level to an elite level.  With the same defensive stats as pMorghoul, their weakness would usually be blast damage, but while dug in, you will lose at most one of them to any blast.  Things like ravagore and incindiarii shooting that apply a continuous effect will still ruin your day, but other than that, your opponent is going to have a hard time digging them out.  If you bring Rhupert Carvolo, you can reduce the probability of trenchers die to continuous fire from 2/3rds to 4/9ths.

Dig in takes up your combat action but allows you to use subsequent combat actions more effectively.  These guys don't have the ability to see through each other normally, so they would have to be in a checkerboard pattern in order to maximize their CRAs.  If you can dig them in first, you don't worry about blasts and can clump them together.  Digging in and waiting a turn takes a significant amount of time, thankfully the UA has a unique order "Cautious Advance" that allows the unit to advance, dig in, and then take a combat action (no special actions) in a single turn.  If you're wanting to make them a flanking harassment unit that you upkeep snipe on, this order is fantastic.

Their second special action is Smoke Bombs, and usually this is how they do work.  I'll assume you know the basics of how clouds work as a game rule, but having multiple models generating clouds can have a fantastic effect on the game (except against eyeless sight).  Without any support, a minimum unit can create a wall of overlapping clouds protecting themselves or create an 18" wall that blocks LoS after the rest of your models have shot at your opponent.  They remain vulnerable as they must be within their own cloud, but being able to set a line on the battlefield your opponent can't charge or shoot through is very advantageous.  More on this later.

Option three is Assault.  Their bayonets and RAT aren't especially powerful, but my word is this a flavorful order.  If you add in the cannon crew and chain guns you'll probably be running a bad list, but it will be one that would feel at home in a historical wargame.  Your opponent may be forced to kill your trenchers in melee, and this order could let you get the drop on them.

This unit has a lot of applications and it's all based on what you bring to support them.  If you want to take them naked, you can either have a decent harassing unit that runs up a flank or a unit that generates a smoke wall in front of your force to protect them from counterattacks.  If you want to make the most out of them, you're going to have to take other models outside of the trencher infantry unit.

If you want to add some sprinkles, Maxwell Finn is your man.  He's a character you won't have competing for a spot in your other list because he's all about those dirty dog trenchers.  He combines an active a buff in Desperate Pace with a passive one, Veteran Leader.  Skorne players know how difficult it can be to get blood runners looking at the master tormentor, but trenchers have an advantage on them.  Once they dig in, any trencher can see Finn if he's in their front arc, regardless of the other models in their unit because they don't block line of sight.  If you need to rip apart high def infantry, Finn makes two-man CRAs hit at effective RAT nine and Pow 13.  That will make it probable to pick off opposing dug in trenchers and if you can do that, you can deal with most non-stealth infantry.  Leave stealth to the fancy pants gun mages.

If you thought Finn made trenchers work well, you'll be blown away by Haley3.  This lady's game plan is still emerging, but she has one spell that makes trenchers excel druids and the Tactical Arcanist Corps in terms of clouds.  Tactical Supremacy on the trenchers allow them to make a short advance after everything else has moved.  Without this spell, you've got a unit that can block LoS to everything but themselves and make a CRA with the others.  The trenchers that establish the clouds leave themselves open to being charged or shot, meaning at best they'll be killed before the rest of the army.  At worst leaving them visible will allow the enemy to get into the rest of your army.  With TS up on them, after the rest of your turn you can have the cloud trenchers retreat out of their clouds, blocking LoS to them also.  Combining this with their native advanced deployment allows you to create a wall at 19" up the field that your opponent can't shoot or charge through, again barring eyeless sight.  If they don't fire a shot, a min unit of trenchers will still be able to earn their points with that cloud wall.  Add in the ability of temporal flux to add to their defense, especially if it's being projected by one of the Time projections that is incorporeal (no damage except from magical weapons) and you've got a unit that becomes very difficult to hit, either in melee or from shooting.

Trenchers are an elite unit that doesn't justify their cost through their stats and raw power, but from their tactical flexibility.  They won't necessarily be outstanding in any direct damage role, but they can provide unique options to Cygnar.  They could be considered a support unit, especially under Haley3, in that their clouds protect the rest of your army.  They can work well without support from a caster or become a lethal threat against non-stealthed models, possibly into your opponent's backfield.  I'm interested in seeing what they will do for me in the future, but that would mean I have to find a way to get table time and that's not going to be an option for a while.

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