Unit Strategy Review: How to use Spartacus
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Unit Strategy Review
Author: Fezzikthedoor (with thanks to the other Strategy Guide Authors)
It is probably safe to say that I have a better chance of turning lead into gold, water into wine, and my love handles into a sexy six-pack, than of convincing the members of Heroscapers.com that Spartacus is a viable unit to draft. After all, everyone knows that the simple fact is that with the units currently available in the game, using Spartacus just isn’t a great idea. Perhaps when more gladiators are released or the point total of the average game creeps up to around 800, they say, Spartacus will be a better draft pick. Well, they're all wrong, and in this guide we're going to see if you can use him and the other gladiators to make them pay for listening to conventional wisdom.
First let’s take a closer look at his stats:
Cost - 200 - Queen Class Unit
Size - Medium – Vulnerable/Concealable
Life - 5 – Average
Move - 5 – Average
Range - 1 - Close Range
Attack - 6 – Deadly
Defense - 4 – Average
Gladiator Inspiration - Conditional bonus of +1 to attack, defense, and movement - High tactical and combat benefits (to Gladiators)
Each unit is complex, and must be well analyzed to be truly understood. For Spartacus, let us begin with his cost. By cost, we refer mostly to his value in points, but also to his importance in your army. To simplify analysis, Agatagary has created several categories of cost, based off of chess, for comparison and nomenclature. For reference,
Pawn class (expendable, units that can be useful, but are not worth enormous trouble to protect)
Bishop class (more useful than a pawn, but still somewhat expendable)
Knight class (units that are interestingly powerful and can have a significant impact on the game in of themselves. It is advisable that they be kept alive, but if absolutely necessary they may be sacrificed)
Rook class (units that almost inevitably have a significant impact on the game, and whose death should be avoided as much as possible)
Queen class (devastatingly powerful or important units that should be protected at all costs)
He stands alone on a hilltop; ready to lead his forces into battle at the head of the charge, Spartacus is doubtlessly a Queen class unit. As befits such a legendary leader and fighter, Spartacus has impressive base stats—his attack is among the highest in the game for a single-base unit at 6. His defense is a respectable 4. His Life of 5, while not outstanding, will allow him to be bloodied with the best of them and although his Movement of 5 isn’t fast enough to chase down a galloping horse it is certainly swift enough to catch a routed Roman Legionnaire and plunge a gladius into his throat. Most importantly, he possesses Gladiator Inspiration, an ability that combines the powers of all three of Jandar’s Viking Champions into one for the benefit of any other gladiators proudly standing beside him on the field of battle. While all of this makes Spartacus a powerful hero, it is his high point cost of 200 that cements his place as a Queen class unit, for should you loose him for any reason not only does the Gladiator Inspiration he instills disappear, but so does a huge chunk of your army.
To examine the Spartacus’ core stats, we will break them up into two categories – offensive ability and survivability. We will start with his offense.
As melee class heroes go, Spartacus can certainly be considered one of the elite units in the game. His attack of 6 is enough to give every enemy on the field pause and likely to do at least some damage to any level of Defense. Against almost every squad member in the game (who generally have a Defense of 3 or lower) every attack will be a fatal one; when his fury is turned on the many heroes who have a defense of less than 4 he is a force to be reckoned with. His movement of 5—alas, only average and giving him a Threat Range (Move+Range) of just 6—will keep him from pursuing the extremely swift units that populate the game, but against those that can only match him stride for stride he is a very real danger.
The greatest detriment to Spartacus’ survivability is his Gladiator Inspiration. This powerful ability will make him a prefered target over the other gladiators in much the same way an enemy will divert attacks towards Raelin or Taelord, but this isn't always a bad thing, as will be discussed below. Even more unfortunately, his size makes him vulnerable to every single automatic destruction power in Valhalla—including the Ullar Enhanced Rifle, Lethal Sting, and Chomp, among others—as well as all the special damage powers like Maul or Paralyzing Stare, just to name two. In normal combat his Defense of 4, combined with a life of 5, make him relatively tough to bring down quickly; his compact sculpt also blesses him with the ability to be concealed relatively easily.
Before talking about strategies with Spartacus, it is important to take a closer look at the power that is best able to answer the question of “why draft Spartacus”. It cannot help but be noticed, after all, that there are several melee heroes whose statistics are nearly identical and who do not cost nearly as many points to draft. The short answer to this question is “Gladiator Inspiration”.
This impressive power—while currently only applicable to two unique heroes, Crixus and Retiarius—is quite possibly the single most powerful enhancement ability in the game. In effect, it combines the Warrior’s Attack, Swiftness, and Armor Spirit abilities of Finn, Eldgrim, and Thorgrim into one.
The advantages it has over these Warrior’s Spirits are three-fold: first, the total point cost of all three units is 190 points and none of them can match the hand-to-hand power of Spartacus (although, to be fair, they do have additional abilities—their Auras—to which he has no corresponding power or advantage); secondly, this ability will affect every Gladiator on the board except Spartacus himself while the Spirits may influence only one hero at a time; and, most importantly, Spartacus need not be dead for this enhancement to take place.
Of course, Gladiator Inspiration has some drawbacks as well. Should Spartacus fall in battle his fellow slaves will be disheartened and loose the bonus his presence granted them. Such wild warriors will gain no benefit from a leader that sits and watches them shed blood like a fat Roman Aristocrat and the need to be the center of attention like in the Coliseum hasn’t abated since their arrival in Valhalla—therefore, each turn all order markers, including the X bluff marker, must be placed upon a Gladiator, with at least one of the four order markers placed on Spartacus, for Gladiator Inspiration to take place. The most obvious limitation is that it only affects two units…but what an effect it is!
Under Spartacus’ leadership, Crixus becomes arguably the most dangerous and resilient melee unit in the game (and should he be within Raelin’s Defensive Aura any argument is moot). Now possessing a Movement and Attack of 6 and a Defense of 4 that flourishes under the cover of his One Shield Defense ability, where rolling a single shield on a defense roll will block all but a point of damage, his 5 points of Life make him a nearly inviolable death machine.
Retiarius is no less dangerous, and, in many ways, even deadlier than his cohort. While his Life is a point lower, his other statistics are identical to Crixus’. In fact, he may well be more dangerous than Jotun when engaged with a Small or Medium sized unit since a roll of 14 or above on a d20 prevents his target from rolling with more than a single die for defense due to his Net Trip 14. He therefore has the potential to do 5 points of damage, even if his foe rolls a shield on “every” die—it is a tremendous blow that is enough to fell most any hero on the board in a single, devastating strike.
Although not yet a reality, Hasbro may well release a squad of Gladiators in the near future. We can be certain that they won’t arrive here before the year’s end, but, should they materialize in wave 9 or 10, even a single unique squad will multiply the value of this ability many times over and make Spartacus a valued commodity as a field commander.
Since Spartacus is such a valuable unit--both for his Gladiator Inspiration and for the mental anguish caused by loosing a 200 point investment--the primary quandary a player is likely to face is how much to endanger such a valued and valuable piece of his forces. Should he play defensively with Spartacus and keep him well away from the front lines, in the starting zone and the edge of the map or should he charge him out along with the other two gladiators so that all three 6 Attack units are able to inflict havoc on the enemy?
The answer is a combination of the two. With all three moving across the board his followers are able to move slightly faster than Spartacus. This will allow you string them out in front of their leader, allowing them to be first into the engagement. Lead with Crixus—his One Shield Defense works on all attacks and defends him from anything but automatic destruction and, although he may take a few scrapes and cuts, he is almost assured to weather the damage, a terrible roll notwithstanding. Once you have gotten close enough you can then choose which gladiator is most suited to the fight: if it is likely to be a test of wills send in Crixus, against a medium or small figure engage with Retiarius to try for a quick Net Trip and the ensuing carnage.
Should he be needed, Spartacus shouldn’t hesitate to charge into the fight once another gladiator is in the thick of things. Still, he is a Queen, and you don’t want to loose him needlessly; therefore, send him in early to assist Retiairus and late to help Crixus. When aiding the former your enemy will usually turn his attention to Spartacus, who has a slightly higher Life. In the meantime you can continue to try to annihilate that enemy with the combination of Net Trip 14 and an Attack of 6. Of course, there is also a chance that the unit in question won’t even survive Spartacus’ incoming swing. The same holds true when helping Crixus, but hold off on assisting him until his Life has dropped to 2 or lower. The truth is that he is simply better equipped to hold out in a melee battle thanks to his One Shield Defense. The only reason to jump into his fight is to distract the enemy from the weakened gladiator with the much more attractive (in terms of point cost) Spartacus.
In theory, this attitude of “wait-and-aid” is one to have regardless of whether the engaged friendly unit is a fellow gladiator or not. A player must always have these three things in mind when taking Spartacus into a fight: Can he destroy the unit he is attacking with one try? If it is probable, engage. Will the friendly unit whose aid he goes to benefit by the distraction he provides and is said unit worth saving? If the answer is yes, engage. And last, will allowing Spartacus to be tied down in this manner make him vulnerable to ranged units on the edge of the skirmish in question? If the answer is no or not likely, engage.
Some players may wish to gain the benefit of Spartacus but not run the risk of loosing him to the enemy. They will therefore ignore the above strategy and never move him until both Retiarius and Crixus have fallen. This is a mistake. Not only does such a plan waste a strong melee fighter who can also be used to draw attention from besieged units it also strands him alone at the edge of the map, usually far away from support, which leaves him vulnerable to flanking units and those that possess Disengage and Ghost Walk. Abandoned and “sleeping” (having no active order markers placed on him) he is an easy target for the many assassin-like units that populate Valhalla. If such a fiend is able to slip close Spartacus will likely survive the first or second attack, but his gladiator friends will be left alone and sleeping when you divert the necessary order markers to keep your 200 point investment alive. Much better to have him near the battle where he can be of use and be defended.
How should a player command Spartacus when confronted with ranged units or swarmed by the omnipresent Deathreavers? It simply won’t do to have him shredded while marching into an Arrow Volley or a hail of gunfire nor is he well suited to being tied up by swarming common squads. The best advice to follow in such a situation is to always lead with your strength, specifically, to follow the strategy listed above. If you are facing swarmers and a horde of ranged units, let Crixus take the lead and he will be the most likely target, and, as noted earlier, he can take it. Better yet, if facing such a motley collection of foes, send out the rest of your army (likely to be 120 points worth) first to tie up their swarmers and make the strongest units of the opposition come to you instead.
This brings up an important point: against opponents that have few swarm units Spartacus, backed by the other gladiators, is an early-game unit. Should you be facing a lot of annoying squad units or a crowd of ranged attackers 3 deep, you are best served by using the trio as a mid-game strike force that can move from hero to hero with devastating effect.
Spartacus is an ideal unit to keep the third marker on. Not only does this give him the opportunity to swing into a battle as needed and keep up with the other gladiators when on the move, but it also allows him, as such a valuable unit, to retreat when needed. Such a retreat need not always be directly in reverse—simply placing him a short distance away from the main engagement can present your enemy with an irresistible target. The fact that you will be bringing Crixus or Retiarius over as re-enforcements the next turn simply works to your advantage by splitting the enemy’s forces. As an added bonus, if you consistently place order markers on Spartacus (other than the bluff marker, as those who leave him in the starting zone are wont to do) he becomes an effective bluffer since at 200 points his actions and vulnerability are always in the opponent’s mind.
Hold the Line: By combining the might of the Gladiators with the Defensive Aura of Raelin (RoTV or SotM, depending on the size of the battlefield) the three heroes can be an amazingly difficult group to bring down. Since the Defensive Aura is a passive ability--it requires no order markers to activate, merely line of sight--with some planning you can benifit from both it and Spartacus' Gladiator inspiration. In a 500 point game Raelin fits nicely with a unit of either Deathreavers or Venoc Vipers. The key is to take turns moving your units: only use non-gladiators one round, then use only gladiators the next. Have the Deathreavers tie up any ranged support until the gladiators can arrive and then bring Raelin up to help enhance their survivability.
Heal the Line:
The basic premise is the same as Hold the Line, but instead of Raelin draft Kelda instead. Although it means you may have to loose Gladiator Inspiration from time to time, having this Kyrie nearby ensures that you will get the most from your mighty melee warriors. You must always remember to protect her, though--luckily, with Spartacus as the more attractive target, it shouldn't be too hard if you're careful. Of course, don't forget that every attack directed at the Kyrie is one not directed at your hand-to-hand fighters, giving you an extra opportunity for bloodshed!
Claw and Crush:
If, during the draft, you see your enemy drafting a lot of the Deathreavers himself, you may want to counter-draft by picking up the Gladiatrons. Use them first to tie down the Deathreavers and then ignore them--proceed ahead with Spartacus and his fellows to crush the heart of the opponent's army. You can clean up the vermin with ease later. Of course, this strategy works with most dangerous squads and heroes too.
Death and Undeath:
Unlike the other tactics detailed in this section, this 500 pt. strategy places Spartacus and the gladiators as a firm second wave assault team. In addition to the Crixus and Retiarius you must also draft Iskra Eisenwein, the Rechets of Bogdan, and Marcu Eisenwein. Lead your first wave with Marcu and Iskra, using the 1st order marker on Marcu to send him one direction and the 2nd and 3rd markers on Iskra, to send her in the other. When the Rechets of Bogdan are summoned, send them straight up the middle. Treat this first wave as shock troops and target the most dangerous units to the gladiators--such as automatic destruction units--then do your best to destroy them. The vampires' Life Drain ability will, hopefully, allow them to do survive long enough to do significant damage. Once 2/3 of these forces have been eliminated, leave them "sleeping" near the enemy to give your gladiator force time to move into position. With any luck, the first wave has destroyed or damaged the largest threat to the liberated slaves and you may now cut through then enemy without watching your flanks for ranged units and the like.
Units to Avoid:
Grimnak: While all of the automatic destruction units are of particular danger to Spartacus, statistically, Grimnak is the worst. The units that he bonds with and is often drafted with, the Ork Gruts and the Heavy Gruts, while not a danger in and of themselves due to their low attack, are able to slip by Retiarius and Crixus (not to mention any other units you might have, those with Cyberclaw excepted) thereby holding Spartacus in place long enough for Grimnak to attempt a Chomp. One lucky die roll and a major component of your army is gone—your enemy has the added bonus of having reduced the offense, defense, and mobility of 180 points of the rest of your army.
Shades of Bleakewoode: Their Stealth Flying will allow them to outmaneuver him, and then, having surrounded him, Soul Devour will deprive you of your gladiator’s leader. Of course, he has also added a 6 Attack, 4 Defense wrecking ball to his forces, so good luck. If these fiends surround Spartacus, waste no time in clearing them off of him.
Crixus and Retiarius: It is the stuff that great drama is made of: alone, surrounded by howling spectators, two friends are forced to do battle to the death—one must kill the other or they both will be put to the sword. Unless life (well, the game) imitates art and his enemy throws the match (or your opponent throws bad dice), Spartacus will be hard pressed to win the fight against either, let alone both, of his friends. Even an un-augmented Crixus can be troublesome for Spartacus with his One Shield Defense, and one-on-one Retarius can trip Spartacus up in his net the same as anyone else.
For additional information see the Book of Spartacus
Last edited by Malechi : June 5th, 2008 at 02:29 PM. Reason: Changed contact info
You are the brute squad!