Year in Review Pt4: “But they’re only melee 4”

I find comments on Scarecrows saying that they can’t kill things because they’re only Me5 funny. Imagine how I find comments saying “but they’re only melee 4”.

The Scarecrow army discussion started in the car on the way back from Bristol. My next army started on the train on the way to (urgh) London for Franticon.

Elliot and I were workshopping cavalry horde lists. There had been a recent discussion on them where players were convinced that they were terrible units. Elliot and I weren’t convinced, so we were exploring the various lists that we could build and talking through strengths and weaknesses. Anything to keep our minds off the impending doom of entering London.

We started looking at Undead. And Oh. My. God.

We were already pretty convinced that Knight hordes in general were actually quite good but when we looked at Revenant Cavalry they were by far the best. You could give a Revenant Cavalry Horde the Brew of Sharpness artefact, taking it to 325 points, and giving it Me3+ like most cavalry. When you compared them to Paladin Knights however, everything was the same, except:

  • Fearless instead of Headstrong (better)
  • Lifeleech instead of Iron Resolve (roughly equal)
  • Shambling (benefit)
  • 30 points cheaper! (obviously better)

30 points cheaper! And equal or better in every way! Using an artefact that many people consider overcosted!

Some people consider Shambling to be a negative. They’re wrong, but even if they were generally right about Shambling on most units, they were definitely wrong on Revenant Knight hordes. Knight Hordes in general will only be moving at twice speed when charging. There would almost always be some positioning to be done that needed a pivot.

The more we looked at Revenant Cavalry, the worse it got. Even Regiments and Troops were obscenely good for their points cost.

Their Melee Value was 4, the only downside, but they had outstanding support available to them (Necromancers, Liche Kings, Mhorgoth). Having a Liche King flinging Drain Life around, adding to the “missing” combat damage from Me4 while also healing was just insane.

The more we workshopped the army, and later when we got the rest of the Northern Kings theorybuilding, it became clear that this was one of the strongest armies we could build in 3rd. There were a few variations of the list floated – Tom favouring regiments of Revenant Cavalry rather than the double horde that Elliot and I preferred – but ultimately had the same core idea of using Rev Cav as damage sponges and moderate damage dealers while applying a ton of Drain Life damage to the enemy.

We tested the lists and they performed exactly as we expected. Incredibly tanky units putting out a smattering of attacks while support heroes contributed and broke key enemy units, all the while healing the already tanky Revenant Cavalry.

See it. Say it. Sorted.

See it. Say it. Sorted - Cities - TLS

We reported this to the RC. Provided them with sample lists, detailing why we felt there was a problem.

The RC wasn’t interested.

We posted a few times, jokingly, about it in Fanatics.

The RC said that Undead weren’t an issue, especially Revenant Cavalry. We were over-exaggerating.

We posted detailed breakdowns of why certain units were undercosted.

The RC said that this wasn’t an issue because, and I quote:

They are only Melee 4.

I find this quite troubling, in honesty. Putting aside whether or not Revenant Cavalry were undercosted, their response seemed to just straight up dismiss any unit that isn’t Melee 3. Ogre Beserker Braves can’t be any good, because they are only Melee 4. Frostfang Cavalry can’t be any good, because they are only Melee 4. Revenant King on Flying Wyrm can’t be any good, because it’s only Melee 4. No baseline infantry unit can be any good because they are only Melee 4.

Naturally this became a meme in the Northern Kings chat.

Dash28 posted the Undead army review, listing Revenant Cavalry as B-Grade because “Melee 4 is not great“. The RC said they agree with this.

Regardless, after the RC made it clear that they weren’t interested in hearing feedback on Revenant Cavalry we said fuck it. It looked like Clash 2020 was still on at this point, so we decided that we would (probably) all take a Revenant Cavalry list to Clash and it would essentially be a competition between us to see who took 1st.

Collecting & Construction

I was the first to take the hobby plunge. The other guys had existing Undead armies that they could largely repurpose, so I was the only one who needed to build something from scratch.

There wasn’t anything special about this. I bought a few things from ebay, a few things from Mantic. As usual I bought army sets so had loads of miscellaneous models to add, and I added two regiments of Soul Reaver infantry using Basilean Paladins.

One thing that I did like was the Frostgrave Wizard sprue for some necromancers, which I combined with some Fireforge knights I had leftover from another project for the mounted versions.

No description available.

All in all, it was a fairly uneventful build. Models were assembled as-is and painted with Contrast (again).

Tom v Tom

It was around this time that Tom Annis played against Tom Robinson on the Dash28 livestream in the Call To Arms tournament. Tom Robinson played with the Revenant cavalry list and Tom Annis played with the Abyssal Dwarf shooting list that many people considered broken and unbeatable. We felt that the Rev Cav list was stronger.

Spoilers: we were right.

The Reveal

I soon revealed the army to The Interwebs, including the Revenant Cavalry horde spelling out the phrase that had started this whole thing.

See, these guys can’t be too good because they are only Me4.

I also demonstrated the magnetic bases by sticking them to the side of my fridge, and then after someone joked about it, posted a video of me slamming the fridge door.

“Does this fix them?”

A couple of days after I posted photos of the army to Fanatics, I received a message from one of the RC members.

They wanted some feedback on an FAQ item they were going to publish and get my thoughts on whether it fixed the issue.

Specifically for the nerf they were putting on Revenant Cavalry in the FAQ.

After insisting for months that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Revenant Cavalry and they were a B grade unit at best. There were more than a few shirty posts from the RC in response to our comments on Rev Cav; the sort of posts that would have gotten me a talking to by Mantic when I was on the RC.

But as soon as I post the army that I’d just spent over £200 on and many hours building and painting, suddenly Revenant Cavalry are an issue. Not only an issue, but one severe enough to need an FAQ nerf.

No tournaments had been played with it. Only one public game shown. No time for people to work out how to adjust to it and fight back.

What an amazing turnaround that occurred completely coincidentally when I posted the army. All the way from the B-Tier in the Dash28 army review, which the RC said they agree with, to immediately being so broken that they’re one of the few units needing an FAQ nerf, all in the space of “Nick has actually built an army of them.”.

The Game

I got a grand total of one game in with the army before the FAQ was released.

It’s sat in its box ever since.*

I’m sure it was a complete coincidence and the RC were intending to FAQ nerf them from before I posted the army. They probably were having discussions about the issue while also publicly disparaging people talking about it. It certainly didn’t feel that it was a coincidence and their timing could not have been worse.

I’m also sure that the army is still more than usable, especially since Undead has plenty of other undercosted units (several that I’d argue are more egregious than Revenant Cavalry were). I just have the sense of frustration when I think about it and don’t want to play it any more.

*Well, it had been sat in the box ever since. I got it out for a game the night after writing this article, proxying some other Undead units instead of Revenant Cavalry.

The Future

At some point I’ll turn to some of the other undercosted Undead units and expand the army again.

I’m generally not giving feedback to the RC any more though. Elliot, newly RC, occasionally raises things in the NK chat or in our games and I’ll maybe give some half hearted feedback but that’s it. I’ve been saying no to other RC feedback and playtest requests since.

It’ll be tricky to workshop lists in future if I want to build on a strong list. Elliot, rightly, would dutifully report any seriously wonky lists we come up with in our group chat to the rest of the RC. It’ll be even more difficult keeping army builds from him giving that he’s my main opponent and social bubble buddy in the pandemic!

Upping The Fear Factor

At some point in the year (not precisely sure when), I went through the rest of the Nightstalker models that I’d acquired and painted them up. Just shy of 6,000 points with a good variety of units! Mostly monsters or large infantry, so it wasn’t as tedious as my Scarecrows. It is definitely not by best painted army, by far. It’s basic, tabletop contrast standard, and that’s fine.

It’s getting green in here

And that’s pretty much it for KoW hobby for me this year. I’ve done a few Ogre bits and pieces, unsuccessfully intending to plough through and paint an entire army three times this year, but the Scarecrows and Undead have been the two successful hobby projects.

In the next article I’m turning to 40k and my newly found love of rescuing ebay finds and turning them Orky.

2 thoughts on “Year in Review Pt4: “But they’re only melee 4”

  1. First time hearing & seeing any of this (as I hate facebook esp. groups – I wish more KoW folks would post in the forum!), but a GREAT read. Thanks for writing this all up! 🙂

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how balancing armies & units etc works in a few different wargames, and I consider KoW to have a pretty ‘risky’ design for balance, exactly because these kinds of army builds are possible in the system. I had hoped to write this all up on my blog by now… but thanks to 2020 meaning I still haven’t even gotten to play any KoW still, I would rather wait until I have more first-hand experience to really write that stuff more convincingly.

    Very crappy behaviour by the RC though! 😦


  2. I always admire the speed and determination in which You paint Your armies. The final result is always stunning. Elevated bases, very limited palette (limited but well balanced) and overall “feel” is top notch!

    How many points are the Undead?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s