It’s a funny old world, this Caen we all play Warmachine and Hordes in. You read the fiction, familiarize yourself with your preferred factions. You fall in love with your heroes, you shake your fist at your foes, and you lovingly spend your time modelling and painting your little army dudes and dudettes to put them on the table against your goes to engage in gaming shenaniganry.
Yet despite this love, there’s inevitably some models you just don’t play. It could be that the sculpt doesn’t personally appeal to you. It could be that you decided you didn’t like the character because of their portrayal in the game fiction. Or, perhaps most common, you didn’t like the model’s rules.
This has been something that’s come up time and again in the past. There are plenty of blogs and podcasts out there that focus on finding a competitive edge, and many times I’ve seen them roundly declare a model as uncompetitive, and watched players succumb to groupthink and agree with them without even tryin the models out themselves. While I can respect the competitive minds (Lord knows I’m nowhere near winning a tournament, let alone the Iron Gauntlet), every once in awhile someone breaks out of the groupthink and finds something that actively works. One comparatively recent example that occurs is JVM’s taking Blight Wasps and making them a thing.
The fact of the matter is that yes, sometimes models aren’t geared strictly for competitive benefit. Some models are built for wacky fun or fluff; you’re not likely to see them on the top tables, but at the same time you could be having an awful lot of fun playing casually, and this is where I think a lot of people miss the point. Not every game you play has to be 50pt Steamroller practice. Sometimes there’s a lot of joy to be discovered in playing 35pt games, or 25pts, especially with newer players who aren’t even familiar with what their models can do, and grinding them through 50pt games every time is almost guaranteed to leave them burnt out, discouraged, and ultimately, have them leave the game for something they can actually enjoy… but that’s a pet peeve, and I digress. Back to unloved models.
There are very, very few models that I look at in the game and just boggle. I can recognize when some are just a better investment of points than others (as my PP forum says, it’s axiomatic that the Reckoner is bananas), but I hold to the belief that there’s a place for everything, as infrequently occurring as it may be. For example, for many years I despaired for the Heavy Rifle Team, forever living in the shadow of the Ghost Sniper, but in the end I fielded two against the enemy 120mm objectives in the Reckoning release event, and they earned their points.
Another model that gets scorned is the Trollkin Skinner. He has utility against Warbeasts, but just generally isn’t seen as being worth his points against anything else – so he’s not an optimal points investment against more than half of the factions out there, and even then, keeping him alive long enough to have him earn his points back is for many a questionable proposition, especially since two of his four special rules – Hunter and Prowl – are largely dependent on the terrain. In a tournament setting you don’t have any control over terrain, and even then it’s often sparse and placement could be an issue.
So if you’re like me and just really like the model, when can you play your Skinner without feeling like you’d be better off with a Fennblade Kithkar or a two point Minion?
One solution that presents itself is Madrak1’s theme force, Winter Kin, as presented in No Quarter 63.
Tier 1 grants your Skinners Immunity: Cold (more thematic than anything else but will likely irk Khador and Legion players) and Beacon, making your warbeasts more Fury efficient and increasing their threat range.
Tier 2 grants the entire army Concealment in the first turn, triggering Prowl on the Skinners and giving you a turn to have them run for whatever concealing terrain might be available – note that the Skinners have Advanced Deployment as well, so your Skinners can be more than halfway across the board on the first turn, with Stealth, getting into control zones and the like.
Tier 4 requires three Warbeasts (one being an Axer), and grants a free Impaler, so there’ll be at least four Warbeasts in the army to take advantage of the Beacon.
Oh, and to get to Tier 4 you’ll have made Tier 3, so if you really wanted to one of your Skinners could have Sure Foot on them for free for a little added survivability. At this point I start looking at the Skinners in the same way I look at Allegiants of the Order of the Fist. A neat model with some abilities that seem like they should be decent, suddenly turned into something with significant potential – yet not brokenly so – by the addition of a Theme Force. Under Winter Kin the Skinners can actually get into position to be useful either as cruise missiles targeting enemy warbeasts (I’ll take a shot at P+S 8 + 5d6 damage on a charge) or roadblocks (they’re still 8 wounds with tough on a medium base for 2pts) without being removed by enemy fire before they can achieve anything if impact for the game.
And people wonder why I like Theme Forces…
Your transport solution is probably full of models you use on a weekly basis, while your shelf at home is likely holding models like Proteus, Winter Guard Field Guns, Morghoul2 and Bloat Thralls, models that you might occasionally put out on a whim.
My challenge to you is to kick tires. Find out how and where they work. If I can make my local players concerned when I start fielding two units of Flameguard Cleansers, you can make their heads spin with an Ogrun Assault Corps. Invest the time to try out the models in different combinations. Find that constellation that has all the stars aligned for you. It could be that the models in question really are corner-case, only an optimal investment in very specific situations, but you need to discover what those situations are.
Kick tires, light fires, beat your opponent around the head with a Winter Troll.