Welcome to Skell- Ghost Fleet

 

A while back, while they were previewing the themes, I did a sort of mini-write up on what was coming in the future following the three themes, and what I thought was going to happen with them. Now, months down the road with all the Theme’s set out, I wanted to take some time to go over them in a bit more detail, shedding light on what some of the standard archetypes, as I see them are, as well as strengths and weaknesses. 

If you want to play ghost fleet, look no further. I’m going to go into as much depth as I can and spend a ton of time talking about what they are, what people think of them, and their long term future, as well as many of the models that are allowed, where they fit, and why. Stay a while, this one is likely to be long. 

Overview

few themes in the game elicit as much of a response or as much revulsion as Ghost Fleet does. From the ashes of MKII’s most reviled unit rose a phoenix of monstrous power and size that warped the games meta for so long that the developers decided that action must be taken. 

Ghost Fleet represents the undead pirates of the Cryxian forces. Its home to the Revenant Crew, Blackbanes Ghost Raiders, all sorts of incorporeal ghosts and phantoms, as well as the Black Ogrun Ironmongers, the living mechanics of the fleet. Ghost Fleets power lies in the recursion abilities of its models and units, bringing back models turn after turn and creating incremental advantage as each one of your models can rid the world of multiple of the opponents. It has a selection of jacks that is fairly normal, and a suite of solos that are decent enough, though unnecessary most of the time. 

The Ghost Fleet has the following force restrictions and benefits. 

Individually, these don’t look like much, and the world as a whole balked when this was released as the first Cryxian theme, shouting it down and telling the world exactly how much hot garbage it was. 

Allowed Units

Lets break down the allowed units, shall we? 

Cryx Warcasters
Non Character Jacks
Revenant Model/Units
Wraith Model/Units
Black Ogrun Ironmonger Units
Misery Cage solos. 

This is pretty simple. 

Every Cryxian Warcaster is allowed in the theme, as is every Warjack without the character tag, though every caster can bring along their bonded Warjack, if they so desire. This only limits Deathjack and Malice, truly, from the theme, though there are many other casters who simply don’t want to play in this theme. 

The Revenant Model/Units are fairly straightforward. They allow the Revenant Crew of the Atramentous as is expected, but also allows the Revenent Cannon Crew and Blackbanes Ghost Raiders, as they too are Revenant units. From a solo perspective, this allows Captain Rengrave and Agrimoney as well, as they are both tagged with Revenant.

Wraiths allow a pretty broad spectrum of models into the fleet. While there are no units at this time, there are plenty of solos. Pistol Wraiths and Machine Wraiths are the first that come to mind, but he Hellslinger Phantom is also a model that sneaks in with the wraith subtype. Finally, the Wraith Engine, being itself named a Wraith, is allowed into the theme, bringing much needed heavy hitting power as well as an armor debuff that is sorely needed in the theme. 

Black Ogrun Ironmongers are pretty clear. It does not seem like they are going to make a black ogrun suptype-subtype, and it explicitly rules out any Ironmonger solos, so there seems to be absolutely no room for expansion, which is fine as they don’t really fit in this setup anyway. 

Lastly are the newly released Misery Cage solos, which seem exceedingly sweet, but also have a problem fitting into the list because they will almost inevitably result in less free models or no Wraith Engine, something that no list really feels it needs. 

This set up really gives us very little to work with, model wise, but more than enough gameplay wise. 

Benefits  

These benefits seem really lackluster at first glance, and even over the course of time it felt pretty rough, but their incremental value really adds up and becomes a waterfall of devastation when used correctly. 

The Merc unit/Solo doesn’t count, because its in almost all themes.

The Free models is a big deal. The list of powerful but expensive solos in the theme is short, and being able to shoehorn them into the list can really make a difference. Additionally, being able to get a pretty hefty cannon into certain list variants really helps take the scenario weight off of the list in general. 

The Deathbound +1 is the really big one. It seems lightweight at first, and even after a longer glance. Its one additional model a turn per unit, and the maximium is 3 units. simply adding one to the roll shouldn’t have that much of an effect. It does, though, and oh boy is a it a massive one. What this ruled does is force the opponent to concentrate on killing so many more models than the really have models and time for, as well as having to commit and expose resources to eliminate more models than they feel comfortable with.  Before, an opponent had to destroy 3 models from a unit just to break even. With the +1 to the Deathbound roll, they have to kill 4 models to ensure a break even, and 5 models to start whittling away at the unit. Spread over three units, its 15 models, which is a paint to start with. 

But that isn’t the complete story, either. The insidious portion of this, as I mentioned earlier, is that if each player is losing models at an equal pace, your opponents run out of models before you do, even if you roll 1’s the whole game. For instance. an opponent kills 5 models in a unit of revenant, 10 models strong, leaving 5 models behind. To do this he had to expose 5 models from his 10 man unit, that are then expected to die, which is a standard even trade. you roll a 1 on your deathbound roll, and you now have 7 models. You activate and destroy all 5 models of his, because your cryx, and by god, that’s how that works.  You expose 5 models to do that, and he reciprocates, destroying 5 models again. You are left with 2 models in the unit. You roll a 1 on your die roll, and again bring back 2 models. your four models then kill 4 of his, exposing themselves to the one that is left. He, in turn destroys a single model. On your turn, you roll another 1, because your balls at rolling, and return 2 more. you have 5 models left in your unit. He has one. His unit is gone, and you can then rebuild your unit. By the opponents third turn, they have come close, but accomplished no more, than their initial assault, and that is assuming absolutely worst case results. If on turn 1 he takes out 5 models and you return 4, he loses 9 models in return, and he has but one left. This grind over the course of the game requires you to keep your leaders safe, and at least one model a bit back at all times, but is well worth it. It is a genius ability that made everyone scoff. 

Finally, we have the +1 to go first roll. It, to, is a subtle and amazing small change that helps the Ghost Fleet game push its attrition and grinding agenda forward. It provides (and correct me if my math is off, I’m not scholar) something like a 13% increase in the likely hood of going first, which is not insignificant when you’re Cryx and trying to put pressure on the opponent. 

Theme Theory 

Now, with the restrictions and benefits out of the way, lets take a look at the basic concepts of coming up with a list. 

Revenant Crew are going to form the backbone of your list. They are rather expensive, being 16 points, but are the only fun (6/10) unit that isn’t a character unit, and restricted to only one. Additionally, they are going to be bringing the Revenant Crew Riflemen with them, who are exactly the same as a Revenant Crew man, but their gun happens to have a 14″ range with ghost shot instead of being a pistol. They can also CMA with each other to create accurate, ghost shot attacks, which can be a real pain for your opponent. Most times, you are going to want to max out the FA on this unit at three, and take three riflemen in each unit, to maximize your ability to drop high value shots into people and to maximize the number of deathbound rolls you get every turn.  Even though the riflemen are RAT 4, CRA and Aiming can easily take the trio up to RAT 9. Add veteran leader from Captain Rengrave, and you’ve some accurate shooting there. it does eat a pretty 45 points up out of your pool, though. 

This leaves us with exactly 15 points to play with for the rest of the army, and we have to be careful about how we pick the remaining models. What’s that? you thought it was a 75 point list? Oh, it is. I’ll get there. This remaining 15 points has a few ways it is generally dived up, but by far the most popular and seemingly most effective is the combination of a minimum unit of Blackbanes Ghost Raiders and Agrimony, Crone of the Dying Strands. Blackbanes is a great unit that, sometimes, will win you games all by themselves. They are an enormous question that needs to be answered, and if they cannot be, they will turn all your opponents living models into flaming ghosts to wreak havoc on their once erstwhile companions. However, when this unit is not going to get its points worth, it is going to be an anchor around your neck. Making sure that risk-reward balance is maintained is the key to the minimum unit size. When the unit only has 6 models, its costing you less, both in points and opportunity, to have these models either perish in flames or sit in the back of a zone and hold it patiently. If the full count unit is simply dead weight, you army suffers to a greater degree, because you not only get no other models in that 15 point bracket, you also have to cut a Revenant Crew Rifle.  Agrimony, the second part of this equation, is an amazing support solo into living models, and has proven herself time and again with the tactician rule, allowing my Revenant models to jovially pass through each other, making the entire game easier to play. her additional Black Waters rule allows her to take out tough models without much difficulty, supporting her fellow Revenants in the desire to disengage. 

Those last 15 points, unless you have a really, really clever plan, are dedicated to the Wraith Engine. The monstrous beast brings Incorporeal and Dark Shroud to the army, as well as a fairly massive body with a ton of boxes that takes a dedicated smashing to remove, especially while incorporeal. The Dark Shroud is critical to the list because without it, the army is fairly pillowfisted, capping out at P+S 10 charges, which isn’t exactly going to light the world on fire, even with Deneghra1. Lastly, he brings ancillary armor to every undead model within 10″ of him, and its not uncommon for their ARM 14 to shrug off just enough blast damage or POW 10’s to be irritating. 

Lastly, we get to the free models phase, my least favorite, but we have to go through it. Here we have a pretty solid selection, it seems, but it really comes down to a few, basic choices. 

First, you are going to have Rengrave in your list. He’s too good in too many situations for him not to be included. Accurate ranged gun as well as a very powerful combat solo and a support rule in Veteran leader, he’s one of the stars of the list. 

Next, we have the generally accepted pair of Pistol Wraith and Hellslinger Phantom. Both of these are amazingly good models to back up Blackbane with, pick off solos or freeze big jacks with, and they make their free cost back every game. However, I am moving more towards bringing just the Hellslinger and replacing the Pistol Wraith with the Revenant Cannon, because they are a unit that can capture zones and is also used to lay down a bit of ranged fire. 

With our list generally built, we can then grab the caster and warjack loadout that fits us the most, and with all 75 points of the list eaten up to get to our 3 free models and take the wraith engine, we are going to want a fairly battlegroup light caster. This is contradictory to many themes, who chose models after their caster is selected, thus directing their selections. Ghost fleet the caster changes the direction that the list plays much more than they influence the model selection. 

Popular Choices are: 
Deneghra 1 – with a host of debuffs and a debuff feat, she is the master of assassinating. Not the queen she once was, but she can still stand toe to toe with the best assassination casters in the game. Shooting Casters from downtown with 20″ RAT 8+ guns and Ignoring LOS is pretty awesome. 

Deneghra 2 – With Hellmouth and Breath Stealer, she can help purge any of the opponents models from locations that you don’t want them in and put your models in a position to take advantage of their newly slowed movement speed. She is very active and deadly on her own, though she has few feat targets in the army. Still a solid choice. 

Lich 1 – Up there with Deneghra 1, Lich provides turn after turn armor shattering ability that Ghost Fleet lacks as well as having the ability to protect them somewhat on the way up. He also is a very active caster at the end of the game, bringing his own strength to bear. 

Terminus – This guy just amps up the durability of the Revenant Crew by providing them Tough, while he gets Reviving Sac Pawns from them. Its a win-win. He’s often the big beater of the list, so it sometimes helps to make sure that you have another one sitting around, and its great fun to watch him scream into something and win by chopping it to death with a giant sword.

Playing the List 

Ghost Fleet is a great attrition bully, and should definitely be played that way. With 4 units and a bunch of quality solos, you have game into almost every Scenario in the ’17/’18 packet. The list has a ton of guys to begin with, and every turn more come back to push the late game. With a 7 turn limit, you can almost always play for the end of the game and, if you are careful, wear them down and simply trade low value pieces for their high value ones, and come out on top. 

Their is some vulnerability to durable models, but many caster can help that out, applying debuffs appropriately and making sure that you give just enough to take them down. Often times, you’ll only need 4 or 5 to take down those armor 20 targets (9+ gang+Dark Shroud+parasite+Denny 1 Feat) and if you’ve done chip damage to them earlier, less. Use math to your advantage – both of numbers and of the faction – and force the opponent into unfair matchups. If you get offered an assassination run, make sure that it doesn’t take up too many of your resources in order go for it. Sometimes, simply charging what you have at your opponent is the right play, and sometimes its not. 

Don’t give up on the Riflemen, either. With ghost shot, they’ll be able to take down many support solos and often these are vital pieces. Thinks like Gibbs, Rhupert, Eilish and others are easy to remove with RAT 10 POW 13’s, and sometimes simple RAT 7 POW 10’s are just fine. 

What is really great is that this list plays to a bunch of different avenues of victory. The Opponent has to respect the assassination almost all the time, and it puts pressure on Scenario, Attrition, Clock, and Game Turns. Its just a solid all rounder list. I hope you like playing with them Pirates! 

Vulnerabilities

Ghost Fleet enjoys a place in my heart as one of the coolest themes out there because it uses so many different tools and so many different angles. That, though, does give it a number of vulnerabilities that are painful to play with from time to time. The First and obvious one is magic weapons. With one of their casters and up to 10 other models all incorporeal, its possible to run into armies that simply don’t care, and they will cause headaches from a number of angles. 

Then, there is the RFP problem. Any model removed from play cannot be returned. This will mean that a properly teched army can scalpel out the leaders of your three units, and leave them without any recursion, because the Leader, once RFP’d, does not return and cannot generate new models. more than that, though, a good RFP army will simply grind down your Revenant Crew until there aren’t any models to return because they’ve all been eliminated, and they don’t have really great stats to start with, so you’re paying a premium to enjoy pretty moderate stats with a solid recursion. If that is ruined, the game is going to be very sad, and very hard, very quick. 

Well, I hope you enjoyed working through the ghost fleet, and I hope you have a ton of games in store with them. I love using this theme even unto today, as it is effective, efficient and uses models I’d not used in years. 

Until next time!