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  #6301  
Old June 1st, 2019, 11:23 AM
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Re: Soldiers of Valhalla - nominations and discussion

Masha Shingai by @Astroking112

Einar is known to summon some evil creatures from time to time, and he does like his samurai.

Balance

In terms of raw stats, Masha is similar to similarly-priced bruisers like Alastair Macdirk, Jarek Guy, and Sgt. Drake Alexander (RotV). Their abilities make them all very different units, though, with Masha mixing in some cheerleader-like abilities, making direct comparisons impossible. The closest might be recent SoV inductee Uzog, with very similar stats and a cheerleader-like ability. While Uzog is offensive, though, Masha is defensive. The Demon's cost is in the ballpark at least, but it will be up to playtesting to see if his abilities are overpowered.

Theme

First of all, I got the figure, and it looks great. It deserves the Large 6 designation as it's a head taller than most humanoids (though on par with most kyrie). Giving the unit a terror-based ability and a magic fire-based ability are fitting for the miniature and for oni, and the general concept of delivering pain through defense is very Heroscape Samurai. So I find it to be nice nods to both aspects of the unit, which is married to its stats. On the battlefield the personality of Terrifying comes through well thanks to Awaked Terror.

Creativity

As I noted above, but the demon-ness and samurai-ness of the design come through in both the powers and in play. The design has some of the basic hallmarks of the samurai, but in a different way. The powers are not overly complicated and overall the design does not feel over-the-top.

Playability

Attack-reducing powers are one of the least fun mechanics, right after order marker removal. That's not to say it isn't valuable or doesn't have a place, but it's easy to guess why the original designers didn't dip into that well. In addition, it's well understood that samurai in Heroscape are deadly in melee but don't handle range very well. It's a weakness built into their design. These things had me wary in my approach to testing Masha Shingai.

First, Awakened Terror is not as bad as it may seem. The requirement of having a revealed order marker on Shingai-dono is a fairly stiff one. It's a potent ability and one the player wants to rely on, especially when running a samurai army. While the oni is no slouch with his 5 Attack, a single strong attack isn't always what you want, especially when Shingai is locked down and options are limited. The first order marker of a round is a crucial one, and Masha almost demands you give it to him, even if he's not in a place to use it well. Worse, it makes it so he can't stand in the back as a cheerleader, as you would need to give up your first turn every round just to activate Awakened Terror.

In addition to that, you don't always win initiative. Awakened Terror is powerful enough to want to rely on, which makes it painful when the enemy opens with a full-power barrage. That barrage is often pointed at the demon samurai, who is pretty much always on the front line due to Awakened Terror, and he doesn't have the Life/Defense to hold out against concentrated assaults. And even once his aura is up the attacks tend to come his way anyway because he doesn't have Counter Strike to deter them.

Fiery Retribution is a nice ability to make an opponent rethink shooting at Masha Shingai or adjacent samurai, but it's not as nasty as you'd think. The biggest issue with it is that it only works when Masha or his friends receive wounds. For most samurai, that means they die. So really it's a 35% chance of taking a wound if the attack succeeds and you lose a figure. That's not so bad, and not usually enough to worry about. Defense boosters like Raelin, or even Shingai's own aura, act against it, not make it worse. And there isn't even any danger to shooting at a 1-remaining-health Masha Shingai, as he won't be able to bring Retribution when he dies. All in all, it takes a fair amount of effort to set up Masha to protect some samurai, but it doesn't last long since he wants to move out himself at the start of the next round, and it isn't even much of a threat to begin with. In reality, it's value is on the oni himself, which may make ranged attackers want to pick other targets if possible.

It seems like a Masha Shingai + Samurai + Raelin combo would be really scary, but with all the above it's not so bad. It takes a lot of effort to keep the group together, especially with Masha's need for order marker 1, and it has weak points. The only way they can really set up in a valid pod is with Tagawa Samurai Archers, but it still requires order marker 1 on Shingai, whose aura also weakens your own Archers.

That's not to say the demon is weak or unsatisfying, though. He is fun to play and terrifying to your opponent when he's charging at them. If everything falls into place the Masha Shingai + Samurai army can be mean, but far from overpowered.

Summary

Despite affecting the game in multiple worrisome ways, I did not find Masha Shingai to be problematic. His abilities, while frightening, have important restrictions which keep them from being overwhelming or unfun. It's a cool design and a figure that looks great standing among Heroscape samurai.

I vote Yea to induct Masha Shingai into the SoV.
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  #6302  
Old June 4th, 2019, 12:09 PM
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Re: Soldiers of Valhalla - nominations and discussion

The Specters of Aldorn have passed United Fanscape Review and move forward in the process.
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  #6303  
Old June 4th, 2019, 12:16 PM
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Re: Soldiers of Valhalla - nominations and discussion

Quote:
Originally Posted by superfrog View Post
Specters of Aldorn by @Leaf_It

Vydar’s undead have gotten weirder. These Arctoran candidates phase through unsuspecting figures. Can these phantoms walk into Valhalla?

Balance

There’s a few squads worth comparing the Specters to. A good one to start off is the Marro Gnids. The Gnids have an extra move, and the Specters have an extra defense. Both have the ability to lower an opponent’s defense, but the Gnids’ is narrower in scope (unique heroes), and permanent. The Specters’ is only for a single turn, takes a little extra setup, but it automatically works on anybody, unique or common, hero or squad. The Specters also have Levitate, which is sometimes pretty good, and other times completely worthless, and they have Phantom Walk, which facilitates their Deathly Touch and gives them lots of flexibility.

A pretty good comparison, if slightly in favor of the Specters.

Theme

Again, the theme is really strong here. Not 100% sold on Harbingers, but I think it works in general. They’re spooky undead that signals that doom is coming on those they visit. Phantom Walk and Deathly Touch work very well together as a theme package.

Creativity

Getting a bonus through moving through somebody? Cool! Especially since it leverages a classic Heroscape power (Phantom Walk) to make it concretely useful in every game the Specters will play.

Playability

I tried several ways of adding Specters to an army. They have no real synergies, so they’re very open-ended in that regard.

Given start zone restrictions and their low point cost, the Specters of Aldorn hard to make the core of a full 500-point army. It’s similar to the struggle of fitting a bunch of squads of Romans into your army, except without a bunch of bonding heroes to use up the rest of your points synergistically.

The second way I tried using the Specters was as a screen. They’re fast, and cheap, and have decent defense, so I thought it was worth a shot. Turns out, that’s not the best use for them. Even with the ability to Phantom Walk through an opponent’s screen, Specters don’t have enough defense to withstand concentrated attacks, and don’t have any way of filling their front lines as they’re attacked (like Rats or Cutters).

In the end, I found the Specters of Aldorn most effective as a first strike force, with 2-3 squads backed by Raelin. 180 points/9 spaces fits in many hero-heavy armies, and is a good way to address some weaknesses of those hero-heavy armies (board control, mostly).

In this usage, the Specters ended up being surprisingly powerful. The defense reduction makes their attack nearly as effective as 3 attack, or 4 with height. And when you notice that the defense reduction works even when another Specter does the attacking (which is thematic), the Specters are very, very flexible in choosing their attacks. This is especially true on maps with road, which tend to funnel opponent’s figures into nice little lines for the Specters to zip through with 9 move (because Levitation is optional).

Levitation provides the Specters with Snow and Ice Enhanced Movement, Lava Resistance, Slither, and Glide all rolled into one. This is especially helpful on lava maps, where lava field is often placed onto height. That third attack die is very helpful to the Specters, even though they don’t exactly need the help.

The Specters’ only real weakness is figures with 5 or more base defense. 2 attack against 4 defense just isn’t great odds. But if you’re just using your Specters as a first strike force, you can easily add a menacer or two to your army.

Summary

I was a big fan of the Specters, and had a whole lot of fun zipping them across the battlefield. But on many common map types (road and lava), and against most enemies (4 defense or less), the Specters just come off a bit too strong.

I vote to induct the Specters of Aldorn into the SoV, but I’d love to see them back with a simple cost adjustment if they do end up failing.
Here's my previous review for the Specters. There are two changes to the current version: their class and their point cost.

The class change isn't a big deal to me. Although Terrors doesn't really add anything to the card, it doesn't stand out as odd as much as Harbingers did. So I think it's a slight improvement.

At 50 points, I was ever so slightly uncomfortable with the Specters in a few situations. A bump to 60 smooths over some of those matchups, without completely neutering their potential.

As my previous reviews indicated, I loved playing the Specters of Aldorn, and I'm happy to see another 4-man common squad in 'Scape. These latest changes are definitely for the better and I vote to induct the Specters of Aldorn into the Soldiers of Valhalla.

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