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Classic 'Scape Strategy - June 2016

Posted June 1st, 2016 at 01:48 PM by HS Codex

Unit Strategy Review
Unit: Horned Skull Brutes
Author: Dysole

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The Horned Skull Brutes are the definitive Brute Squad in Heroscape (pun intended). Their beastly stats come packaged with plenty of useful abilities that come in handy for storming the castle or beating a path to allow you to accept your opponent’s surrender. However, despite their brutish appearance, there is a finesse to playing them. As you wish, we shall examine them more in depth.

Analyzed Statistics:
Life – 1 (Squad)
Move – 5 (Average)
Range – 1 (Melee)
Attack – 4 (Above Average)
Defense – 4 (Above Average)
Expendable Rabble: If a Brute would die to a normal attack, you may sacrifice a goblin instead. (Low-Medium Tactical Advantage)
Barge into Battle: After moving, an unengaged brute may swap places with an engaged squad figure within 3 spaces. (Medium-High Tactical Advantage)

In-Depth Analysis
Each unit is complex, and must be well analyzed to be truly understood. For the Horned Skull Brutes, let us begin with their cost. By cost, we refer mostly to their value in points, but also to their 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 and 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)

Brutes are a Knight class. They have high survivability and attack, and cost 25 points a figure. They will hit hard and can take a few hits, but losing several won't typically be the end of your army. For 75 points, they can be on the job as either support units or your main fighting force.

The Horned Skull Brutes’ base defense of 4 is usually what melee squads need to be able to successfully survive a ranged onslaught, so one can expect their survivability to be fairly high. They are still vulnerable to every special power that affects small or medium figures, and have no additional defensive powers outside of a cutter build, but you can expect your brutes to stick around pretty regularly.

4 attack is very good at killing things. While they only have 3 attacks, 3 attacks of 4 should be able to kill almost anything they encounter, or at least leave it mostly dead. Until you start attacking figures with 5 or more defense, a brute has better than even odds of inflicting a wound.


Using Expendable Rabble
The obvious pairing with the brutes is the Goblin Cutters. You will generally want about an equal number of brutes and cutters. When running them together, you will want to lead off with cutters employing tactics found in the cutters’ review. Once the cutters are further up front and several are engaged, then you can begin moving the brutes forward. Don’t forget Barge into Battle can basically give them 8 move and sometimes even more than that on rocky terrain. Ideally, you keep your brutes adjacent to cutters but sometimes an optimal position will be better than making sure a cutter is adjacent.

Once you have engaged the enemy, the brutes should have a slight advantage in hand-to-hand combat against most opponents. By having both brutes and cutters as possible options for your opponents to attack, they must choose between two options as long as they do not have any special attacks. If they attack the cutters, then you may Scurry up more cutters to protect your brutes and possibly set up Mob Attacks. If they attack the brutes, you can always sacrifice a cutter. Don’t forget that this does not activate Scurry.

Once you have both brutes and cutters in play, mixing up the order markers can be very useful, but you will probably want to lean on either cutters or brutes a bit more depending on what you are fighting. While both can usually handle figures with high defense, the cutters get an additional attack, while the brutes tend to be better at putting lots of wounds on heroes.

Now, it is worth noting that this build is certainly capable of winning, but it is not top tier. It requires a lot of finesse both in positioning and OM management. Furthermore, the build does not make optimal use of Scurry, since an opponent can just target a cutter with the initial attack, and then focus on brutes with remaining attacks, especially any that may have lost their cutter protection from Scurry.

Using Barge into Battle
Barge into Battle is a useful ability which allows your brutes to get right on top of your opponent’s figures and beat on things with your 4 attack. You can use it with your own brutes, you can use it with the goblins, or you can pair them with other squad figures that benefit from being chosen for Barge into Battle.

When Barging with a brute, if there is a brute within Barging range of an engaged brute (about 4 – 8 spaces) it is often better to move up the furthest back brute and Barge on in. It gives you a lesser version of Horde Movement while still maximizing attacks.

When deciding what other units will work best with Barge into Battle, the squad figures should fit at least several of the following criteria:
  • Be durable
  • Either excel at melee or are perfectly fine being engaged
  • Are not bread and butter units or sharks
  • Can get back into the action relatively quickly after being Barged away
  • Allow you room for enough brutes to make it worthwhile

Typically you will want menacers and defenders for these roles. Deathreavers are far and away the best units for the job. With 4 defense, Scatter, 40 points per squad, and wanting to be engaged will provide you with many good opportunities for Barging. Other good units would include the Phantom Knights, Marro Dividers, Warriors of Ashra (although you become very vulnerable to range with them), and Warforged Soldiers (Tactical Switch followed by Barge could really put a beating on someone, but they are a bit pricey). To a lesser extent, Minions and Sentinels could work but tend to be a bit spendy. While it might seem inconceivable, another option is to try a few squads of a very good high defense melee unit like knights (while certainly not as good as most knight armies, you can make a decent second wave with the brutes).

With whichever support squad you choose, you will want to lead off with them and get them into good positions. You don’t want to get too far ahead as Barge is only able to catch up with someone 8 spaces away. Against ranged units this could prove difficult, so if the units are not already excellent against range, like Deathreavers or Phantom Knights, you will probably want some long-ranged unit to draw them closer (anything with 7 or more range is usually sufficient).

Once you manage to engage the enemy, begin moving up the brutes in a similar manner to what was described with cutters above. However, your support units will not be able to save your brutes. Because of this, you will probably want to play it a bit more cautiously than with cutters. Once the units are actually in the fray, prioritizing will help you decide whether the brutes or your support are better equipped to take down your opponent’s units (unless you are playing them with rats, in which case you kind of just want to use the brutes). Typically when building this type of army, unless you are playing very cheap support, you will only have about 2 squads of each unit. To fill out the support for this, you will probably want some sort of range or a special attack or both. This type of army is not likely to defeat one of the top tier builds, but when built right, it can surprise a lot of people.

One last thing to note is that Barge into Battle works on friendly units, so if you are playing a team match, playing all brutes while your teammate plays a support unit can allow you to set up the Barge really well and continue to combat your opponents from all sorts of directions. Do note that Expendable Rabble does not work with friendly figures, so your teammate cannot run cutters while you run brutes and have it be as effective as if you were running them individually.

Units to Avoid:
There are very few units that brutes should avoid, but here are some where you will need to adjust your strategy accordingly.

Warriors of Ashra: Defensive Agility negates the brutes’ greatest asset of strength, and their 3 attack will kill enough brutes that they will win the war of attrition. Send your other units after these guys.

Cheap Low Defense Units With Lots of Attacks: It is not that brutes cannot take them. It is that these units will usually win a war of attrition with the brutes and waste the brutes’ high attacks. For example, brutes need to kill basically 2 Venoc Vipers or 3 Blade Gruts per brute they lose to come out ahead. Don’t hesitate to kill any in a good spot, but do not overly focus on these units unless you really have no choice (e.g. they are your opponent’s whole army basically, or you’re having to fight something like Deathreavers). If they are a bonding unit, you can prioritize them more. Some bonding units such as Death Chasers have enough attack to reliably cut through brutes while being cheap enough that they can afford more misses than the brutes can. It is advised here that you instead try to use your support units to thin them out first.

Units with Powerful Special Attacks: While massed brutes don’t really have anything to fear from special attacks, many of the units that are best paired with brutes do not like to see a powerful special attack on the other side of the table. The special attacks of the Majors or most dragons are not typically intimidating to brutes, but they can definitely put a damper on your support units and, if an attack does get through their thick hide, Expendable Rabble cannot activate. Now, plenty of these units have as much to fear from the brutes as the brutes do from them. So, in general, keep an eye on these things and make sure you can punish them with some heavy-hitting attacks.

Units with Reliable Auto-Destroy Powers: 25 points a figure isn’t too cheap. Figures like Braxas, Black Wyrmlings, and even those with Counter Strike and high defense can really put a damper on your brutes. Engage these units carefully. Fortunately, they tend to either be low in number or something which falls quickly to repeated attacks of 4, so getting the jump on these units tends to be your best strategy.

For additional information see the Book of the Horned Skull Brutes.
Total Comments 2


Porkins's Avatar
Nice article! I've always really liked these guys' sculpts and their stats, but have found them difficult to use. I should try them again now that I've read this.
Posted June 1st, 2016 at 05:02 PM by Porkins Porkins is offline
capsocrates's Avatar
I'm glad you talked about other sqauds the Brutes combo well with. I've played them with Goblins once or twice, but usually pair them with Ashra or Rats and a ranged special attacker. One of my favorite squads.
Posted June 5th, 2016 at 07:56 PM by capsocrates capsocrates is offline
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