Comments on Defenses and Guardtowers to feedback in April 2023

I don’t often write feedback, but I’ve recently ran few steamroller events,  and got some impressions both personal and general players.

Mainly we really like Mk4.  Quicker games, fun.  Still the same game with different rules, but still the same.   We like the new stuff, and we like the legacy armies that are more recently released.  Some of the first batch do not seem as fun.  But its obvious that you’ve spent great effort and had good effect on so very much. Thank you.

One of my and many others favourite things about Mk4 has been the introduction of CMD cards.  The minor things that they do have been really good.    With that I’ll move on to the things am concerned about with the new rules releases.

A) Guard towers.

I love the idea of 3D terrain that changes the balance of small/medium warriors positively, and influence the choice to go first/choose side.   There are a lot of issues I’ve seen.

1) People don’t like change.  Not much we can do about this.  We need change to stay alive.  But I think its important to be aware of that for the context of people’s complaints.

2) Not being models is difficult to understand for a lot of people, and quite complicated.   As TO/Player, I had to carefully read each effect on a card to determine if it would effect a guard tower.  It was quite obvious to me that Dark Shroud wouldn’t effect the Tower.  Kiss of Lysiss though is an attack, and the tower can be attacked.   Some people argue it doesn’t say the tower can take damage because it doesn’t say it can – but when an attack just causes a debuff – I couldn’t guess which way the intent was.  Travis has told me that its not meant to effect the tower.    Effects like Gang I worked out incorrectly, after discussing it quite a lot.   (Gang doesn’t work because the tower is not an enemy but otherwise we believe would)  Effects like Incite don’t work.  But effects like Positive charge do work.    Armies that depend heavily on debuffing models really suffer at hurting the tower.  

3) Some of the effects are very strange, when you hit models in the tower.   For example,  Hellmouth.  Shield Guard models in the tower, and shield guard models not in the tower.  Revive targeting models in the tower. 

4) The tower is very durable.  Some armies do not have good options to remove it.  If you have Jack Hammer you can devote a casters whole focus pile to remove it may be.  Otherwise its functionally only taking slight damage from shooting,  or requiring several activations from loaded/buffed heavies.  If your army doesn’t have high power heavies – you might very much struggle to kill the tower with 4 heavy activations.  For example Ravens of War,  has one heavy Azurel who is PS17,  and with Kryssa he can probably kill the tower in 2 melee activations, if its not defended.    But other wise PS15 is the best,  and the only buff that can help is Kryssa – so if your opponent can keep Azurel busy – the tower is very safe.    Not being able to be charged – means 85% of infantry can’t hurt it.  I was told its hyperbole – but only really heavies have PS higher than 15, and some of them are just 17 or 16, in quite large numbers.     A PS17 model takes 10 attacks to do about 40 damage.  Which for most such models is 3 activations.  If you are lucky enough to have a PS21 model,  which would kill it in may be 5 attacks,  that will still require 2 activations.

5) Models in the tower are very hard to remove.    The tower being worthwhile to be in is important.  In some of the games I’ve seen the following.

Examples of models in towers

A unit of Winter Korps Infantry:  Def 19, Arm 13 Blast resistance. Take up on the special Weapons.   If you can hit Def 19 (which isn’t easy) if your not boosting blast damage, Power 8 Blast is quite likely.  Which needs 6’s to hurt these quite normal infantry.  The model directly hit will die, but the rest will likely be fine.   If you can boost it they all die.     But Def 19 is very hard to hit.  If you can ignore cover then you can shoot more accurelty.   Their output from the tower is impressive, but they are not being dislodged in a lot of cases.   

A unit of Winter Korps Shock Gunners – Def 18, Arm 15 blast resistance,  I saw Kray Cygnar use 2 cyclones, and 2 weapons crews all boosting to hit as much as they could, and kill 1 model.  They then proceeded to do 4 Rat 8 Range 14, PS13 spays that killed off all the solo’s and weapons crews that they could.

A Cygnar First Army Trencher Express Team stand in a tower, get some very long range shots off, and get killed by some CRA’s from behind a wall over a few turns.  But the aiming CRA was rat 11 vs Def 19, and PS14 vs arm 15, and steady tough, so got a bit lucky.

Rhul Guard Herme and Jonne, in a tower. (Def 18 arm 15/13 boxes)
3 man WKI CRA, 6 shots from Autocannons,  2 Heavy warjacks boosting shooting and Borisyuk aiming and boosting – only just manged to kill them both.  Phew. 

Infernals Nicia, Hound of the Abyss.  Def 22, stealth,  arm 12 5 boxes.     She became a range 16 power 13/8 aoe2 model.   She covered most of the center of the table.  A direwolf with a Heavy Autocannon,  When it aimed it needed 15’s to hit.  It has a ps 17 melee weapon but if the arcanists came into range to empower it,  they would then be able to be gathered as souls by her.

Borisyuk,  got in the tower.  Shooting 18” gave him the range he needed to threaten everything.  His Control range was sufficient to look after his jacks and his feat still,   he killed all the enemy empower units and drove the caster out of the control of the 2 Heavies near the tower,  and stood in his tower, unable for the jacks to remove it due to lack of powerup.  If they have been fully functional and powered up,  they would probably have killed the tower,  but if the caster had been close enough – it would have been shot a lot more than it was by Boris.

Conclusion of examples.

In all the above examples – the range was nice,  but the defense potential of the tower meant that many models/units activations that did nothing.   A CRA unit needing 8s to hit,  Volley fire, needing to roll 11 or 12 so many dice rolling. 

Positively I think the shape of the game with the types of models that can use towers in them is a bit improved, but the unkillable nature is often a negative play experience.  Worse than that some armies are very good at dealing with them.

For example Captain Bart, with a Rat 10 boosting Mariner with Hotshot from 15” away,  will probably kill just about everything above on average dice.   The Well of Obersos,  which does an AoE it can boost the damage off that ignores cover, will probably kill everything.    But most AoE weapons will just effect one target with their blast damage, which will be reduced by blast resistance.       I’ll complain about Grenades and Sprays separately, but the defence stats are too extreme for models inside the tower.

I’d like to suggest that rather than Cover, Blast Resistance and Elevation, they instead get Elevation and Carapace. 

This would mean:
Dusk Archer unit would be 15/20 boxes,   rather than 19/16 blast resistance.
WKI would be 15/17 rather than 19/13 blast resistance.
Nicia would be 18/16 rather than 22/12

Borisyuk would be 18/18 rather than 22/14
Much Tankier casters more unlikely to benefit from being in the tower?
Warcaster’s that like hiding in towers would be much easier to kill with 4 less defence and 4 more armour.

Things would still be pretty safe but the curves would be much more with in the normal ranges for the game.  When you get to Def18, you are extremely hard to hit for everything really.  The best example for this was vs Cygnar Sloan – where when you got to Def18,  some of her shots would miss you, but before that your would be very dead a lot of the time.)

The durability of the tower.

Arm 24 vs Shooting – is very strong.  The best guns,  are PS16 boosted I think,  which is about 3 damage on average.   A lot of heavy shooting is PS14 boosted,  which will be dice off 10.  This is not a good to interact experience with or a fun game in my opinion.

I personally really apricate the way the new Power Barrel Defence is Destroyable.    I wonder if it would be possible to give all Cohort models a new power attack.  “*Power Attack:  Demolition.   A Medium Based or larger model that can make Power attacks,  that has a melee weapon can do this action.   Target a Destroyable piece of Terrain.  Make a Power attack damage roll vs the Terrian.  If it exceeds the Arm of the model give the Terrain a Damaged Token.   If Terrain is Damaged X times, it is turned into Rubble/removed from the table. “  I thought that if you wanted to make Terrian not disappear too quickly to could have status’s that it progresses though:

Damaged 1 > Damaged 2>  Collapsing > Rubble > Removed from Table.  

You could even say that some terrain can not take more than 1 level of damage per turn.

I know this is a bunch of home brew from an armchair developer, but with building being a whole new class of thing,  and their durability being extreme, doing something different that could include Light Warbeasts/Jacks as well as heavies for tearing them down (may be with a bonus for Fists/Gladiator/Siege weapons)  could be a nice opportunity to improve the game – rather than confuse people?   A lot of this is became all factions have beasts/jacks that could make power attacks to tear down the building and it be fun, with a game plan. And you can defend the tower by stopping the jacks from getting to the tower.

On Grenades and Sprays.

I hadn’t thought about this much before, just played and got on with it.  But if you chuck a grenade in a trench – models shouldn’t get blast resistance from it.   Its totally the opposite of what it should be.  Yes it’s a simplication – but its really strange and doesn’t make good sense.    Can we have “Models in Trenches gain blast resistance from AoE’s that hit models outside the trench.”

Towers then gained the Models in Towers can’t be targeted by sprays.

  1. This as above seems counter intuitive.
  2. It removes a lot of ways some armies had to interact with guard towers.    Its not a great option spraying something with Elevation, but may be if you took my suggestion of Carapace it would be OK to say “if you target a model in a tower with a spray within 3” instead of considering a line – instead no models outside the tower are sprayed, but all models in the tower are rolled against by the spray attack..”  They get +2 Def from Elevation and +4 armour from Carapace – so have a good chance of not all dying. 

    Yes its a lot more words – but it makes sense and gives more options for bringing counter play that are not highly accurate blast weapons that can boost a lot. 


I was in the group of people who really didn’t like these as an idea.  Then I read the narrative scenarios and saw that they would be pretty good for that. 

I still had some pretty serious concern over their use in steamroller – but the reworking of the rules for the effects on the table, is a great step in a good direction.   I think they still need some adaption.

1) I think they could be clearly optional in steamroller.  I think people will opt to use them if they are a default, but options are nice.
2) The power of free walls is very high seeming – it was a Theme force benefit that some casters really valued (for themselves or their troops.) 

  • Defences do important things to make melee models less the thing you want. Killing them with Spikes, Removing their stealth, and having walls to hide behind probably changes the balance of the game in good ways.
  • Opportunity cost.    When they were first shown and it was “if one player has these then the other player doesn’t really upset people.  I think there will be loads of suitable proxies markers, models and cool league support models for this thing that will just put more cool things on the table for us to impress passers-by with,  but I think the perceived pay to win and unfairness of that forced you to make changes that are regrettable.   That is the changing value of CMD cards.    Prior to Defenses there are some pretty good CMD cards – but I find mixing them up quite common.  Power Swell + some army staples.  Some of these cards could be changed up by having different point costs – but the system of CMD cards at the official launch of Mk4 was one of the best changes.  Very well received and worked.  Subtle yet – really fun. 

    Defences and Sappers – are much more impactful than other cmd cards.  They are not subtle.    There is a whole little minigame going on.  If you take Sappers – at any point you can remove a defence from the table meaning you can’t rely on the defences that you do have.  But you know your opponent has or doesn’t have sappers – so the choice of that Rock Paper Scissors, changes key tactical plays for you from the start of the game.    For example, putting a gun heavy behind a spike trap so it hard to engage it with lots of weapon masters, but then the spike trap disappears.  Or that Wall your caster is behind – it might not really work.   Or worse of all,  that powder keg you were going to use to blow away that wall,  well it was a dud.     

    I think my suggestion for this would be to get rid of the sappers card completely, and merge it into the corerules in a weaker version.   The new Defences cards are much tamer than the original revealed rules,  but its still the most powerful CMD for non-grynmkin people – and may be for them.   To counter balance this – when you take Defenses, your opponent should get Sappers for free.  But Sappers is too powerful as an any time ability.  You should only be able to play it at the start of your opponents turn,  so it can’t be used as a gotcha, as they have a whole turn to work out that their plans have been foiled.  I think in this way Defences and Sappers could be fair and tactical and fun?   The rules might need a bit more tuning – if you like the Power attack Destroy – letting all jacks do that to most defences might be fun.  If you set the difficulty of the attack at something easy for heavies and harder for lights,  and the power attack costs a focus and an activation,  then I think it would bring good focus to the jacks/beasts.