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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Circle Orboros Theme Forces - Part 1

Circle Orboros Theme Forces

First Blood

I love theme forces. I've always loved the back story of the Warmachine / Hordes world even more than the rules. I am the type of player who played themed forces before themed forces were cool. For example, I hate using Megalith with Kromac, the Ravenous, even though it's tactically beneficial to do so.

One of the advents of the transition to Warmachine / Hordes Mark 2 was the introduction of theme forces. Theme forces are Warcaster / Warlock specific army lists which confer their own benefits. Players are encouraged to take certain models, to not take other models and to even double up on models. These restrictions allow players to gain certain advantages which can, sometimes, make up for the restrictions.

The Theme of Circle Theme Forces

If there was a theme to the Circle Orboros Theme Forces, it would have to be seizing the initiative on a first turn. Of the twelve existing theme forces, eleven offer the player either Advance Deploy, Advance Move, +2 SPD on the first turn, or +2" extension to your Deployment Zone. Sometimes these abilities can stack to yield massive advantages.

For example, in The Devourer's Host theme force, players have access to Tharn Ravager units with Heart Tokens and +2 SPD. Toss in a Ravager Chieftain and the unit is charging 11" with Reach, MAT 9 on the charge and P+S 15. That's absolutely amazing. It's even more amazing when you consider that these Ravagers can Advance Deploy! You can further stack this list by using Telekinesis to give a few Ravagers an even longer threat range or by feating after the Ravagers charge, which can work to prevent counter-attacks.

The Circle theme forces allow players to either strike out on the first turn or to confidently seize control of the middle of the board with little fear of retribution. We'll discuss some of the options below after a case study of one specific theme force.

Claw & Fang - A Case Study

Grayle, the Farstrider, is one of the newest Circle Orboros warlocks. Grayle's theme force is called Claw & Fang. At first glance, players may discount this force because of the lack of certain key Circle models and the requirement of a trio of Arguses. However, there's a very real threat for a first turn assault in this list. Given that Grayle excels at assassinations, a first turn assault can throw your opponent on his heels, enabling you to maneuver Grayle properly for the kill.

50 points
Grayle, the Farstrider
-Winter Argus
-Warpwolf Stalker
Reeves of Orboros (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Warpborn Skinwalkers (Leader and 4 Grunts)
Wolves of Orboros (Leader and 5 Grunts)
-Wolf of Orboros Officer & Standard
Wolves of Orboros (Leader and 5 Grunts)
-Wolves of Orboros Chieftain & Standard
Reeve Hunter
Wolflord Morraig
War Wolf
War Wolf
War Wolf
War Wolf

This list gets the player to tier 4 for the theme force. Several advantages are conferred for it. Firstly, all of the War Wolves in this list are free. Secondly, one Wolves of Orboros or Reeves of Orboros unit can Advance Deploy. Thirdly, the Deployment Zone is extended by 2".

Now, players may balk at the inclusion of a unit of Reeves, but there's a reason for it. We're going to have our Reeves of Orboros use the Advance Deploy. So our end deployment is going to look something like this. (blank medium bases are Skinwalkers, blank small base is Grayle)


During our first turn, we're going to begin by running each of the War Wolves forward 14". The Reeves will follow up by advancing. At this point, they're at the 24" mark on the table (22" mark if you're going first in a Steam Roller event). With their crossbows, the Reeves can target models in your opponent's Advance Deploy zone. Any models which are hit will also be charged by War Wolves with Sic Em.

This picture gives you an idea of the range on the Reeves. The green circles are the two innermost Reeves model's threat range.


If your opponent goes first, you'll be able to target just about everything your opponent moves out of his own deployment zone. The Reeve shots and War Wolf charges allow you to target key models and force your opponent to react to these models before continuing his advance. War Wolves can't be trampled through, so with good placement, your opponent will end up collapsing around your free models before he can advance on your army.

The remaining models in your army will run forward so that your Skinwalkers are arranged behind the Reeves and the Wolves of Orboros are behind them. The result is a multi-layer army with the Reeves slightly exposed but backed up by the durable Skinwalkers. The Wolves of Orboros are ready as a counter-attacking force.


Grayle can feat this turn if you'd like. That will allow you to get your whole army (except the War Wolves) under Stealth in the first turn. That will make shooting your army difficult for your opponent.

In the following turns, you can rearrange your force so that your durable Skinwalkers are out front and shielding the Reeves. The Wolves of Orboros can both use Power Swell, making for some very hard hitting models. Wolf Lord Morraig is also available to use his insanely hard hitting sword strikes on any enemy models who get too close.

Behind all of that, you still have Grayle's battlegroup as an assassination threat. Grayle is ARM 20 with the Winter Argus' animus and Storm Rager. Combined with his stealth and immunity to combined ranged attacks and combined melee attacks, Grayle is amazingly durable. By slowing your opponent down on turn one, you're in position to start to position Grayle and his battlegroup for the assassination run.

Theme Forces Overview

When using theme forces, game size is vitally important. There are a few forces which offer benefits in small points games. However, as a rule, theme forces really come into their own around 50 points. Notable exceptions to this are the Rock of Orboros, Call of the Wild and Harvest of Blood theme forces.

It's also useful to consider the various intermediate benefits a theme force offers. For example, sometimes getting to tier 1 or 2 is good enough. So we're going to rate theme forces on several levels. Firstly, we'll rank their optimal points value for tier 4. Then we'll rank each tier individually. We'll also discuss some of the first strike capabilities or interesting strategic options for the list. We'll do all of that next week.

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