There’s a thought that a 1-inch retaliatory strike isn’t worth anything. I disagree.
Background – what is Retaliatory Strike?
In Warmachine, Retaliatory Strike is one of the few opportunities for you to make an attack during your opponent’s turn. The ability is dependent on your opponent attacking and hitting a model with Retaliatory Strike, and being in range of the model hit.
This attack cannot be boosted by spending focus, fury, or essence, but it can have modifiers applied.
Is it on a good or bad model?
First, a model has to survive the hit. A model is a good candidate for Retaliatory Strike if they are resilient to melee damage. High armor and hit boxes, or the ability to move damage to other models helps ensure the model will survive to make that return hit.
Next, the model actually needs to have a good chance of hitting. Something in the realm of 70% chance to hit would be good. I’m looking at rolling a total of six or better on two dice. To hit a DEF 14, that means a MAT 8 on the stat-line.
For a damage roll, you’ve got to consider what types of models they’re going to encounter. Single-box infantry at ARM 16? Something in the realm of POW 12 is pretty good, giving an 80% chance of killing. Anything extra, like an additional die from weaponmaster makes higher armor or multi-wound models nervous. And having a higher POW is great on its own when encountering high ARM models.
How much does melee range matter?
The question isn’t whether one or two inches of melee are better than the other. It’s whether a one-inch melee is relevant.
I have to point out that Retaliatory Strike is only really relevant into a model that could die from that free attack. It could matter to a warjack or warbeast if it already was damaged, or if it wants to attack multiple models with Retaliatory Strike, but mostly the models that care are models that could be killed by the attack. That means, we’re talking primarily about units. This is especially true if the Retaliatory Strike model has less than a POW 18 hit.
About half of the melee primary or combined arms units currently in the Mk4 Prime game have a 1-inch melee range. I counted 73 units having a 1-inch melee, and 68 units without. I left out units that were clearly ranged units or units which were primarily support units. If it had just a melee attack, or dual attack, it made it into this count. If it had at least one weapon with a 2-inch melee, it got counted as a 2-inch melee.
This means that some units have both a 2-inch and 1-inch melee range, and were counted as 2-inch. If a model chooses to stay outside of the range of a 1-inch melee model with Retaliatory Strike, it gives up one of its attacks. THIS MATTERS!
By having Retaliatory Strike, even a 1-inch, you’re denying attacks
Read the header. A model charging…. say, a Trollkin Champion with Retaliatory Strike faces a MAT 7 POW 12 weapon master attack. Sanguine Bond, 8 boxes, and an easy ARM 18 under the krielstone makes these guys highly survivable, even with a charge attack. If they do die, they could go through the tough check and survive, standing up! That means they are returning the attack with one of their own, and they stand a good chance at killing the attacking model.
I’m gonig to repeat myself. If a model with a 2-inch and 1-inch melee wants to hang back to avoid the retaliatory strike, it gives up the 1-inch melee attack. To be fair, usually those 1-inch attacks are shield attacks, or something with a low POW, so they probably aren’t killing champions, but knowing an opponent might hang back can be used to deny board space.
How to use Retaliatory Strike on Trollkin Champions
Placing a unit of Trollkin Champions just inside a zone, at 1 inch from the edge, forces an opponent to think. It asks questions of your opponent.
- Do you want to contest?
- If yes, then the opponent just moves in, and doesn’t attack.
- Do you want to kill some champions?
- Probably yes, because if they don’t, then the champions will attack next turn.
- But if they take a swing on the champions, they could lose their contesting model.
- And if they lose their contesting model, then they need to have a backup unit or model for making another attack or contesting the zone.
Moving a two-inch melee model outside the zone and attacking does nothing for scoring, although it might kill the model with retaliatory strike and deny the free attack. If that two-inch model wants to contest, it must get within range of the troll, and take the Retaliatory Strike attack.
The best counterplay is to just shoot a Retaliatory Strike model at range. Trollbloods use concealment, stealth, or just turn off shooting for a turn, keeping their champions safe from guns. A slam works well against champions, but they may have a model behind them (usually Skaldi) to prevent models from being moved out of base-to-base contact. Drag also works to separate the models from each other, but ends with the dragged model being close to the model who will probably have to melee, resulting in a Retaliatory Strike.
If guns aren’t an option, it’s usually better just to make the melee attack and know you might lose a model than do nothing at all. Go ahead and charge in, take the hit, lose the model, and make sure you have a second unit in reserve to follow up. Retaliatory Strike is only allowed once per turn, so the trolls won’t get a second swing. It’s counterintuitive, but you’re probably going to lose the models on the troll player’s turn if your things stay within range, so you might as well attack.
Trollkin Champions are great with Retaliatory Strike. While a 2-inch reach with Retaliatory Strike is definitely better than a 1-inch reach, the ability isn’t reduced to worthlessness on a 1-inch model. Creative play forces counterplay, which increases the time your opponent spends on their turn or leads to errors which cause you to benefit.