Welcome to Skell: Part 1

This is the start of a series directed at new players, but hopefully with some nuggets for veterans and journeymen alike. This is a post about my opinions on Cryx from the vantage point three editions and dating back to 2004. We will start, today, with a standard faction overview. 

I’ve heard the same question, time and again,from the newcomers to the faction. They ask about tips, tricks and what to do with the faction next. Those questions are tricky to answer, and often end up bogged down in the minute details. I think the question is valid, even as hard as it is to answer,  so I wanted to take some time and lay out my thoughts around our faction, and what advice I would give newcomers. I hope that this format is much better at explaining the information than I am in a slapdash online conversation. before you go there, I know that Battle College exists, and it is a good resource for model and rules knowledge, but this is going to be focused, for the most part, on Cryx and what makes it the faction that it is. 

Introduction

First, lets start off with the obvious statement: Cryx is one of the factions in the game Warmachine. As in many other wargames there are varied strategies to playing not only the game as a whole, but each faction within the game individually.  It is important to remember that no strategy is wrong if you enjoy it, though there will be stronger and weaker options within the faction. There will be many differing opinions on what is strong or weak, and these opinions will often change over time as the game shifts and changes through the addition of new models, factions and Tournament rules. (This changing state of the game is referred to as the Meta.  There are going to be a ton of references to the meta in these articles, because at its core, Warmachine is a social game and the meta cannot be avoided.) What I will be trying to go over here are the basic building blocks of the Cryx Faction, and what it means to be a Cryx player. There will be plenty of players that disagree with what I say here because their experiences are different from mine, or because they have strongly different opinions on model effectiveness. I am going to try and avoid that as much as I can by initially being vague, but there will be details that people disagree on, and I expect it. 

Welcome to Cryx

With the introductions over, lets start our dive into Cryx. 

The Cryxian faction is one that is very different from the other four original warmachine factions (Cygnar, The Protectorate of Menoth, and Khador) and holds its own place among the factions of the game by focusing on a type of ability called a debuff, which reduces the effectiveness of the opponents models, vicariously increasing the effectiveness of your own. Often, these debuffs are used to reduce an opponents ability to defend themselves, either lowering DEF or ARM or both to some degree, allowing your models to destroy the opponents models much easier than it can be inferred by simply looking at the stats. 

The warcaster is the primary source of the debuffs in the faction, though they do also come from other parts of the army as well, with Dark Shroud one of the notable instances, but also includes Critical Paralysis (Sepulcher), Stationary (Pistol Wraith) and Knockdown (Satyxis) to name a few.  Using the caster in an aggressive but reasonable manner will often be a key part of the game, enabling your infantry and warjacks to do the necessary work to win the game. 

The faction also generally focuses on the power of its infantry over the power of its Warjacks. This focus is reinforced by the design of the faction, and the function of debuffs in an army. Debuffs are much more powerful when spread across multiple models in multiple locations, something that large infantry units can take more advantage of than warjacks, in a general sense. 

If you have come to Cryx for the warjacks, there is hope for you, but it is of limited design space and function. There are a number of interesting lists at the time of this being written that prominently feature warjacks, but they are not the predominant way of playing the faction

In addition to focusing on infantry, the faction focuses specifically on melee Infantry. We have a multitude of options when it comes to poking people with sharp objects, but our ranged presence is much diminished. Combining ranged attacks with debuffs sets in motion an extremely potent equation that can often end games earlier than expected on both sides. 

Cryx, then can be summarized up as:

A Melee oriented infantry faction with fragile warjacks lead by a powerful Warcaster

What Makes Us Different

In every area of the game that Cryx is strong, you can often find a faction that performs similarly, but nowhere do you find the combination of abilities that you do in Cryx, and it brings a very specific and enjoyable take on the game. Debuffs, in strength, prevalence, and quantity, appears nowhere else in the game, and is mighty satisfying to sling spells that brings the opponents hardest to kill models, their centerpiece and linchpin, to its knees and cripples it. Even our most insignificant models, with the right application of spells and abilities, has the chance to divert the flow and put the game into your hands. 

Additionally, we have a very high prevalence of Ghostly models and effects, making our models hard to pin or slow down. This comes through incorporeal models, who can move through terrain and models, but are vulnerable to magical weapons and also Ghostly, a rule that allows us to ignore terrain and any free strikes, but prevents us from going through models. These two abilities, and casters that can provide ghostly on demand to a number of unit due to how ghost fleet works, means that we can often ignore large parts of the terrain on the battlefield, in addition to forcing the opponent to have to block charge lanes with actual models, not just with melee ranges. Its a powerful ability that Cryx has in abundance. 

This power does, however, come with some pretty grating side effects. 

Debuffs may be fun for us, but they are downright crushing on many opponents psyche. They are powerful because they let our insignificant hordes tear apart targets that are of value that outstrips them by degrees, but that can cause opponents to not enjoy certain aspects of the faction. Having your Behemoth destroyed by 3 charging Brute Thralls is something that no opponent wants to experience, but can very easily happen. We Often specialize in lopsided trading of models because many, if not most, of ours will die on the way across the board. Learn this early and often, and take the emotional cudgeling you’ll get with a smile. The best words of advice I can give here are learn when you were scared your opponents were going to flip the script of the game and where your plan hinged. Tell the opponents, in a kind manner, where you thought the tipping point was, and why. They might not agree, but they will know that you felt vulnerable to certain moves, and they they can start looking for those positions to take advantage of in the future. 

All of that said, though, The Hordes of the undead are an amazingly varied army to collect and play, and I’ve enjoyed them for more than 10 years as I’ve played through every edition and every level of tournament. It is not possible to overemphasize the amount of enjoyment that comes from properly executing a victory with the faction. 

The Horde 

Infantry, as I’ve mentioned, is the strong and powerful backbone of the Cryxian Faction, and you will often end up running multiple units and outnumbering the opponents models, sometimes up to 2-1 or even higher. There are lists I have seen and played with greater than 60 models on my side of the board. If this number scares you, don’t worry because most lists don’t stretch that high, and I was trying to achieve a specific goal with it. Still, 20-30 infantry isn’t beyond the possibility of many lists and is quite common. 

The stats on our infantry are varied and, often, extremely deceptive. We have models on all ends of the spectrum, but rarely do we have models that combine all of those stats in an elite way. Our infantry is strong, do not misunderstand, but it is strong as a compounded product. Even our solos seem to be a touch more expensive than they would be in a different faction, making their inclusion a harder task. I find that nearly every game that I play is won on the backs of either the Waracaster or their infantry. 

We have a number of fairly basic Archetypes for infantry in Cryx, and I’ll get to them over the course of the next few weeks in greater detail, but suffice it to say that we have the following options available to us

  • Recursion 
  • Speedy and Fragile
  • Slow and Hard Hitting
  • Simple Swarm

Each of these has its its own experience and weaknesses, and are fun in their own specific ways. I personally love the Slow, hard hitting lists that can crunch through many an opponent. 

I want to know what you would like me to write about, as either a beginner, or what you would have wanted to know about the faction as a beginner. I might not get to them all, but I am damn sure going to try! 

As always – if your looking for more, I’m on Twitter, Instagram, and facebook, though they all aren’t equally active. 
I make my lists at Conflictchamber.com

Until next time,