I’ve been thinking about Circle these last few days, and as I sat down to write a report from Wednesdays game I discovered that I didn’t really feel like doing it. I played pKrueger against Calandra, and it was the best game I’ve ever had in Warmachine, but I don’t feel like writing about it.
Then I answered a forumites question about my revised view on Circle, now that I had stopped crying about it and started winning, and in the process of answering I came to another problematic conclusion: I still feel the same way about Circle, and I hate it.
- A Faction with a style that is counter-intuitive to the Steamroller Scenarios.
- A Faction that requires flawless intuitive play (‘feeling the right moves’).
- A Faction of specialists in a game that favors generalists heavily.
Someone said “Circle is the only Faction that makes me feel like a street magician” and that’s an incredibly accurate description. A street magician creates wonder, magic, and crowds are stunned by his tricks, unless they happen to know how they’re done. If a spectator knows his tricks then nothing he does is spectacular, and the tricks of Circle Orboros are easy to figure out (with a few exceptions, more on that later).
- Based on speed, but several factions rival that speed without the debilitating drawbacks.
- Based on defense instead of armor, which is a flawed system and easily circumvented.
- Suffers from a severe lack of synergy, because most of the needed abilities are all Animi.
Speed: Most Circle beasts can easily attain an 11″ threat, which is also easily attained by many other factions or casters. Then we can add Hunter’s Mark but that is very unreliably, and depending on a speed buff that requires a to hit roll is not a good idea.
We can add a Gnarlhorn but in doing so we weaken most lists, and we suffer a massive loss of resources when sending in a beast with Bounding because we cannot apply Lightning Strike at the same time and save our beast. We can go to specific casters and Kromac solves this issue perfectly, but the other casters are all limping along with the possible exception of eKaya who has other problems to deal with.
Defense: Depending on DEF to survive is an equally flawed mechanism, because of the sheer number of effects that cause knock down or debuff defense. It’s a solid mechanism for infantry because it’s hard to knock down ten models, but sitting at DEF 14-17 makes no difference if you’re knocked down.
You can debuff both ARM and DEF, but you cannot remove ARM entirely from the equation with a spell or feat. You can also lower ARM by 3 on a Khador Juggernaut and still have trouble taking it out, but if you lower a Warpwolfs defense by 3 you almost remove hitting from the equation, and it’s ARM and boxes sure won’t see it through.
Synergy: Finally a Warpwolf requires no less than three Animi to play the type of game they’re built for. They need Bounding, Primal, and Lightning Strike in order to get in, reliably kill a heavy, and survive the retaliation by getting out again. In some lists a caster can mitigate the problem with added threat range and a built in damage buff, but usually Circle casters only have one of those tools available.
Kromac is again the caster that comes closest to solving the problem, and with the right placement his access to Warpath makes it possible to circumvent these problems by sending in two heavies that can both reach multiple targets at once while triggering Lightning Strike.
- Circle is a Faction that cannot adapt to a new strategy.
This is something that came as a real surprise to me. When I picked Circle for this project I was sure that adapting was the main strength of a Faction dealing with speed, tricks, and teleportation but it really isn’t. Circle is all about building a list with a specific purpose in mind, and then thinking for ten minutes until you come up with a solution to doing what you planned anyway.
Everything in Circle is specialized and expensive (PC), so building armies that can attempt several different plays is hard, which also means that building Circle lists is extremely boring because all your ‘bricks’ are 7-11 points.
The thing again is that Kromac allows you think up ways of doing what you planned because he’s incredibly good. Kromac doesn’t adapt his strategy either, he simply abuses rules and does what he planned anyway, even if he has almost nothing left to play with. I guess you could say that Kromac circumvents the problems you face with Circle, and that’s what makes him so good. I’ve won less than a third of my games with casters that were not Kromac, and every game with him, and that’s what makes me think I finally have Circle figured out.
- Circle needs what Kromac has.
When I’m playing Kromac my beasts have the speed needed to engage without needing random spells or Animi, which means they can have the Animi slot open they need to retreat, and in close encounters the added distance from Warpath allows my beasts to retreat out of range instead. Warpath allows my ‘street magician tricks’ to become so complicated that very few players have any chance at defending against them, and playing defense against Kromac is a lost cause anyway.
Kromac also supports Ghetorix, the only heavy in Circle that can reliably play attrition (with the possible exception of the Guardian, and yes I know Megalith is a tough nut to crack but a dedicated melee heavy with buffs will end him), and with access to Warpath Ghetorix is a monster. I’ve been incredibly frustrated with non-Kromac Circle because everything was either a little bit to expensive, a little bit to slow, a little bit to unreliably, a little bit to vulnerable, or a little bit to obvious to pull the kinds of plays I picked Circle to play, and I think the results really speak for themselves.
- Where to go from here?
Well I don’t know. I’m not going to sell my Circle, and I enjoy playing Kromac so maybe I’ll stick to him for a while and see if I can’t build some silly lists with him. It’s not that I mind losing (no one enjoys it of course) but I absolutely loathe playing something that’s appallingly bad and losing unless I chose to do it. I’ve learned a lot about rules and power attacks in my time with Circle so maybe I should begin constructing Kromac lists simply to learn, or maybe I should find something else to play entirely.
I don’t know and there’s no reason to decide right now. I think I’ll begin by simply playing Kromac and concentrating on learning to use all the available power attacks, while I figure out where I’ll go from here.