What is a SOTN Bear/Champion build?
The core Storm of the North (SOTN) list is two units of Bear Handlers and Battle Bears, a maximum unit of Champions with Skaldi, and a Krielstone with the Northkin Elder, either a minimum or maximum unit.
Outside of that, there is usually a crumple zone, or jam unit, preferably a unit with advanced deployment. Fire Eaters, or Raiders are excellent in that role. Kriel Warriors lack advanced deployment, but bring defense against ranged attacks with their Cabers.
Support pieces often include Fell Callers, to provide the krielstone with pathfinder, or to give a +2 MAT to melee units. Whelps pop in to support warbeast heavy versions of the list. Rarely, the Hearthgut Hooch Hauler makes an appearance, bringing a no knock-down stumbling drunk ability and a +1 MAT. Due to its high cost (monetarily and pointwise) compared to its output, it typically does not see the field.
Finally, some players field mercenaries or partisans such as Boomhowler, the Death Archon, Malvin & Mayhem, or the Dhunian Archon. Each of these options brings a non-linear threat, something that can be employed without affecting the main army, or some defensive option.
How does the SOTN Bear/Champion build work?
The SOTN Bear/Champion build can be summed up as follows: feint with a jam unit, threaten the sides of the table, then bring the alpha in the center of the table.
First, the jam unit runs forward as far as possible, bolstered by a krielstone’s armor bonus and +1 SPD bonus. Sometimes, advanced deployment units like the Raiders run out of the krielstone’s bubble, but that can be okay if the unit carries a protective spell to make them harder to hit. Their purpose is to stop the other army from advancing, and to draw a line on the battlefield where the armies will clash.
At least one of the bear units ambush on the second or third turn. Sometimes, both units are set to ambush, depending on the opposing force’s composition. The role of the bear unit is to push the opposing army off the edge of the table so the champions and battle group can fight. The two bears in the unit deploy 3 inches off the table’s edge, and threat 11 inches. The bear handler (the Trollkin in the unit) only threats 10 inches, but that’s not why he’s there. The bear handler provides the flank ability, so the two big bears hit accurately and with force. Their bite reaches P&S 16, while their two claws hit at P&S 15. On a charge, one of those is boosted. I’ve personally had some good spikes and wrecked a Crucible Guard battle engine with a single unit. Usually, they maul troops or solos hovering too close to the edge of the board. The threat of the bears keeps most models at least 14 inches away from the table’s edge.
The champions, under the krielstone, threat 10 inches rather than the normal 9 inches. Even under the krielstone, the champions don’t really threat far. With the threat of the bears being so strong, people often keep off the edges of the table, being restricted to the center 20 inches of the table. Large armies struggle with placement, and they jam themselves. Sometimes, they run units farther up the board than normal, entering the threat ranges of champions and the battle group. The relatively high MAT and weaponmaster attacks absolutely slaughter whatever the champions contact.
How does Kolgrima factor in?
Kolgrima’s biggest strength with the core SOTN is that she extends the threat range of the Battle Bears and Champions by two inches. Her secondary function is to shield her units from charges and guns through the use of clouds. She compounds the gun issue by literally preventing shooting for a turn. Her feat also pushes things off flags and out of zones if they are only touching the edge to contest or score. Her personal assassination threat is a real thing, with magic cold sprays, and she can de-buff high defense models or units with Cursed Fate, or she nullifies single wound high armor infantry using the same spell.
How is the rest of her list filled out?
Kolgrima usually brings a runebearer, since she benefits from having an extended control range. She also enjoys harmonious exaltation, for the cheaper spell. The runebearer also sometimes threatens models nearby, being capable of casting Kolgrima’s offensive spray. Once in a while, the runebearer pulls a Hunter’s Mark or Cursed Fate, enabling Kolgrima to remain safe behind her army or crouched near terrain.
Kolgrima doesn’t pilot warbeasts well, in the sense that she doesn’t provide a lot of assistance to them directly. Instead, she brings beasts that help her and her army. The Earthborn or Bouncer to keep her standing, for example. Often, you’ll encounter pyre trolls, brought to light Fire Eaters aflame. If she doesn’t bring Fire Eaters, she’ll drag along something else. She doesn’t usually need a Basher, because Cursed Fate already provides a defense de-buff. Sometimes she’ll bring a Bomber or Brawler, which are pretty self-sufficient.
Extra points are often spent on minions. Two of her spells, Cursed Fate and Hunter’s Mark, directly aid minion units or solos. Cursed Fate drops enemy defense, and causes afflicted models to suffer a point of damage when a direct hit fails to score damage. Hunter’s Mark is a friendly model spell, helping extend the threat range of charging minions as well as Trollbloods. She is often seen with a Death Archon, extending its threat by two inches while it collects corpses and strengthens her army when playing against living models. She has also been seen with Malvin & Mayhem, due to their self-sufficiency. She doesn’t often take the Dhunian Archon, because her list relies on hitting fast and hard, rather than relying on healing. Whelps don’t often appear in the list, unless she’s running a warbeast who wants to be in combat.
What is her strategy?
Kolgrima’s strategy is to delay the advance of the opposing army, and to allow her army to strike first. It may seem that the jam unit is getting pummeled in turn one through three, but in reality, they’re just the cushion, the ablative armor if you will, for the real army – the bears and champions. They drain the opponent’s clock while Kolgrima’s bears and champions advance in, or threat key scoring elements. She plays aggressively, screening in the early turns, but launching into a full assault when in range.
Her main win condition is scenario. She applies her clouds and her feat to control the board, cutting off charge lanes and pushing models off scenario pieces. Expect her to kill models in the center of a zone with her army or her own spells, then feat, pushing models off the edge of the zone.
What kind of counterplay is there against Kolgrima’s brand of SOTN?
Deny the charge, and watch the edges of the table. It plays into Kolgrima’s center game strategy, but it also prevents the bears from making an appearance too early. Having a solo take a flag near the edge of the board can be risky if bears are waiting to ambush, but lining up a lethal unit or warjack/warbeast to charge the aggressing bears should either prevent the ambush or clear a path for a second solo.
Filling a zone, rather than waiting on the edge, helps diminish the pushback ability of her feat. Lots of warriors can jam up a zone, and force Kolgrima’s army to make attacks, eating clock. Having a push resistant model behind the swarm can keep them in the zone. Gargantuans and Colossals will be a target for Champions, so screen them with your jam units.
Amazingly, guns still work into Kolgrima. She only turns off guns for one turn in the game, and it usually isn’t until turn three, because she has to be in range for her feat to work. Models that can see through clouds, either through eyeless sight, or true sight, Mage Sight, or other anti-cloud tech ruin her cloud setup. With a jam unit in front of the guns, your army might not have to worry about giving ground to Kolgrima’s fast moving “Storm of the North.”
Fire Eaters look problematic. With the pyre troll, Fire Eaters can gain boosted attack and damage rolls and steady. They tend to harass large pieces, or swaths of infantry at the beginning of the game. If an arc node sits far enough in front of your lines, the Fire Eaters may pick it out early in the game. Fire Eater armor is strong against fire damage (13 +5 ARM vs fire). Don’t let that fool you when your opponent rattles off the “18 -12 is dice off 6” when they roll their continuous effect damage, or when they initially set the Fire Eaters alight at “20-12 is dice off 8.” That boost to 18 or 22 only happens against fire damage. When you attack with a ranged or melee damage roll, they’ll be ARM 15 under the Krielstone. This means Fire Eaters are susceptible to POW 10s, although it may take more than one shot due to their 5 hit boxes.
Raiders are a little more resistant, starting at ARM 14, but if the Krielstone actually makes it far enough up the board to apply the +2 ARM, the 16 ARM Raiders are still within range of a POW 10 gun.
If Kriel Warriors with Caber Throwers are in play, they may bring armor up by 4, slinging Carapace around the field. Models within 2 inches of the Caber gain the bonus, but killing the Cabers directly is easy because they have the “Easy Target” rule. Other medium based models never block LOS to the Cabers.
The effectiveness of Cavalry will depend on how the terrain is set up, and how Kolgrima deploys her clouds. Cavalry usually has impact attacks, and often out-threats Kolgrima’s crumple zone. However, it is often wise to use the cavalry as a second wave. They can’t flank, like normal, if bears ambush. They can instead defend a zone from a bear ambush, threatening to wipe the bears after they move in. The risk is that the bears can crank their armor high up, and in a way are as good as heavy cavalry in their own right. It might be worth considering fighting the bears the same way you would fight other cavalry units. Pikes, staggered, and backed up with your own cavalry.
Kolgrima’s forces want to move quickly, threatening the center of the board with charge attacks. Charge denial through clouds, Polarity Field, Blind, or Psychokinetic Shield. Charge denial is really effective, as it turns off her threat extension (Hunter’s Mark only works when models are charging or slamming), and it lowers the damage dealing capability of the army. Fire Eaters really like to assault, and if they can’t charge, they also don’t get their assault spray.
Being immune to cold eliminates the cloud’s attack de-buff, as well as prevents Kolgrima from being an offensive piece herself. Her attack is in the form of a cold spray, and immunity to cold prevents all damage from her sprays.
Removing immunity to cold, with something like the Vulcan, messes with some of her plans. She often unjams her own units by spraying over them, and she is denied this tactic with their immunities removed. If the Earthborn Dire Troll is in her list, it loses all its immunities, and is suddenly much easier to remove with fire or cold attacks.
Continuous effects really hurt the Trollkin. They don’t want to be receiving damage at the start of their turn. The Northkin Elder means they don’t have an easy way to stop continuous effects. Usually, only the Pyre Troll is brought, so corrosion continuous effect damage is still relevant. The pyre troll animus often only applies to Kolgrima or a single solo or warbeast, so the fire continuous effect can cause trouble for the bulk of the army (excluding Fire Eaters, who want to be on fire).
It always helps to have something that stops healing. That’s true for playing against any Trollbloods army. However, the typical Kolgrima army doesn’t have a lot of healing outside of Tough, so it may be skipped. Volume of attacks, first to kill, then to kill again, becomes more helpful than bringing something specifically teched to prevent healing.
Storm of the North can play very aggressively, storming up the board, denying scoring elements, and then claiming those scoring elements for their own. Kolgrima amplifies their aggressiveness through range extension, and she defends her army with a cloud effect and feat. Her defensive capabilities aren’t extreme as they initially look. With practice in positioning your army so that she can’t leverage her ambushing units, and building your army with some counterplay options, Kolgrima’s SOTN Bear/Champion build becomes something that can be played into, and possibly won.