-By: Javier (Jenochet)
I remember when I first got the drive to get in to miniature combat. It was during a free comic book day in the distant past, the location and exact number of years lost to memory. Among the Marvel and Dark Horse comics I walked out with, there was a Reaper Miniatures magazine. Not exactly Warmachine, but the idea of fielding mechs and infantry stuck with me for at least a decade. There was one sad attempt to get in to 40k that ended up taking the name Ultrasmurfs to a ludicrous level. Unfortunately, high prices and school meant I never saw any actual use of the minis outside of the Tyranids that came with the Macragge box being re-purposed as D&D figures. Still, the concept fascinated me.
Somewhere in the intervening years I came across a magazine advertising Warmachine. I was instantly enamored with the models. Khador, Cryx, Cygnar, the all just looked so cool. I honestly thought if I ever picked up the game, I’d play Khador. I never gave the Protectorate a second thought. Funnily enough, as time went on my favorite 40k faction became the Sisters of Battle. The fluff grabbed me—a faction whose chief weapons were fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, a fanatical devotion to the God Emperor, nice red uniforms and lots of fire. Get where I’m going?
Enter Fall 2016. A group of friends talk about getting in to tabletop wargaming, and I get super excited as an incredibly old interest finds that I have the time, money and people to get in to it with. It brings back memories, and among those memories are the Protectorate.
A cleansing, purifying flame that is a beacon of justice to the righteous and a sign of judgment to the heretical. Deus Vult indeed. It also helped that the Protectorate was advertised to me as a faction of synergy and buffs, a faction that stood stronger as a whole than any individual piece. For the most part, I can see that. A lot of our victim stat units can become just silly at times with the right setup, our light jacks can hit pretty damn hard when we put a little effort in to it, and there’s the ubiquitous choir as well. Passage may not be as good as it used to be and Battle may have been nerfed pretty hard, but by Menoth does a choir cause some amusing frustration in the enemy ranks. Getting to say NO is enticing. It may not be as powerful for the Protectorate as it used to be, but a solid denial is just fantastically fun.
One battlegroup box and a unit of Errants later, I was in. My group consisted of a Khador player, Cygnar, and Cryx. We met up once a week, and beat the hell out of each other for weeks. The Cryx guy was the long time tactician though, so for a long time any of us who fought him got their butt handed right back. I had a few close ones with him, but I didn’t score the first win until I stopped playing luck and started playing smarter. See, I came to the realization that a lot of my early wins were due to pure dumb luck, not a better strategy or units. Everyone knows the Protectorate needs a choir, and I didn’t field one for at least a month while relying on a Castigator.
Despite my frustrations with the Protectorate—and there were a lot—the wins I did get kept me going.
Malekus. Good old guy, a fat bastard with the best fire power in the Protectorate. Kinda puts Feora1, 2 AND 3 to shame in terms of fire, although that’s not hard these days. Being battlebox, he was my primary caster for a long time, with experiments being proxied in every now and then. Back when the four of us didn’t know the rules very well at all, it was he that swung a number of games in my favor. Of note was one of my earlier battles with the Cygnar player. At the time, we had two very bad misunderstandings of the rules. For his part, he was convinced that taking out the cortext shut down a jack entirely, and taking out the movement meant it couldn’t move at all. On me was the mistaken idea that casters could use focus to make multiple ranged attacks in one go, and that the Castigator could charge and combust at the same time. This abject failure to look things up led to a rather lopsided pair of games. The first had him coring out my cortices with a shock shield, then trampling Malekus. The second had me getting his caster in range of Mal’s flamethrower and burning her down. It was a silly time for us all.
Of course, the silly didn’t totally stop even after things were clarified. I got my first Choir kill early on, shortly after purchasing and fielding them for the first time. It was against the Khador player, with him running Kommander Sorscha. He completely trashed my jacks. I managed to take out one of his heavies, but my Revenger, Repenter and Castigator were little more than frozen wreckage. His Shocktroopers were bearing down on a point to contest, and Sorscha herself was readying to kill Malekus, who had suffered badly and was raging against the dying of his pilot light. With nothing to sing to and the end in sight, I figured what the hell. Might as well go for broke, right? A max unit of choir members charged at Sorscha, each hoping against hope to hit the monstrous DEF target. They needed a miracle. Even though she was heavily wounded and didn’t have any focus–not that it mattered, we didn’t know about focus camping at the time–MAT 4 against DEF 16 wasn’t likely, and PS 6 against ARM 15 made even three dice look shaky. One swing, and a miss. Second swing, a miss. There’s no way–third swing, boxcars. The giddiness starts up. Still got damage to roll though, probably going to need another hit, which won’t–oh Menoth. He broke ARM. He broke ARM, and swung hard enough to kill Sorscha! It was as if the god of man had reached down and blessed my dice. As for the particular choir member, he earned himself the name Onius and a story.
While that win meant a lot to me, the silliest of them all was a different one. Also against the Khador player, that one involved throwing a Shock-trooper onto a wounded Harkevich with a Castigator. It’s a good thing the Man-o-War wasn’t a big fat guy or Harkevich living would have been reeeeeally difficult.
Now, all this being said, the win that meant the most was against the Lord Tactician Cryx player. Like I said, none of us in our group had managed to beat him yet. Close calls and near misses, that was all we had. I decided to try something new this game. I don’t recall the exact point totals, but I had a choir, the standard battlegroup trio of jacks, Malekus… and Flameguard Cleansers. I had never tried them before, and those who know what they do are probably shaking their heads in disbelief that it took me that long to figure it out. Now, something I had been doing for most of my games against Cryx was running in as far as I could and trying to survive the alpha strike like an idiot. This game, I hung back. I knew by now that my jacks were to slow to make or take the alpha. I let him come to me, keeping an eye on his machine wraiths and waiting for him to charge my Revenger, which I had moved further up field compared to the Castigator or Repenter. I ended up being able to place the Revenger in a spot where Malekus could sling Immolation at both machine wraiths just outside charge range on either side, which I felt just a little too proud of. After he moved his bane warriors and assorted jacks–Seether, Slayer, and a Deathripper, I think–in to position, I let loose with Malekus’s feat. By this point I had learned to boost Attack and not Damage, and so the Repenter melted half his jack force. Meanwhile, the Flameguard destroyed the Bane Warriors, and spent their extra numbers melting the other half of the force. The Castigator punched up the rest.
Then the Maintenance phase of the fire began.
It was my first decisive victory. No lucky throws or silly moves out of left field, I had actually put a little thought in to what I was doing instead of charging en mass and floundering after. I was beginning to think. With that win, I started a long road to being a better Warmachine player.
Which is good, because shortly after a Journeyman league started!