The Kara Sloan dilemma – Disgruntled Wargamer

The Kara Sloan dilemma

Defender

Why the interest in Kara Sloan?

When I bought my Infernals, Sloan and a bunch of Hunters, and an Avenger were painted.

  • Captain Kara Sloan
  • Avenger
  • Hunter x5
  • Charger
  • Minuteman x2
  • Caine 0
  • Gun Mage Captain Adept
  • Trencher Express Team
  • Captain Karli

Having the workings of a basic Sloan list and painted models, with the added benefit of the Accumulator rule pumping up her warjacks during her feat turn makes Kara Sloan interesting. I’ve played the gun mage sniper back in Mk II, and her strengths as well as her weaknesses haven’t really changed in my opinion, even with her move to the Infernals. Her feat turn can bring down a colossal, or a few warjacks, or even the enemy warcaster. Her army is still vulnerable to most anti-gunline tech including feats like Kolgrima’s, shield guards, and just tactics like rapidly closing range, using cover, and so on.

My first game with Sloan in Infernals included the Avenger, some Hunters, the Gun Mage Captain Adept, and the trencher express team with Karli. We were both learning our lists. My opponent didn’t know some of his Khador Man-O-War had steady, and couldn’t have been knocked down by the Avenger. I would have had an illegal win, but my express team pushed his warcaster out of range of my hunters. It wasn’t a great game, in terms of clean play, but it was still fun in a “haha” way.

One of my early mk2 Sloan lists involved a Stormwall. It’s a great anchor piece. It has two big guns, and two huge fists. At 34 points, one is very expensive. I decided to double down and run two against Crucible Guard for my second Sloan Infernals game. It started well, with a few important pieces being deleted durint her feat turn. It quickly soured, however, as Locke’s warjacks eventually engaged one Stormwall then the other. Each fell in quick succession, leaving Sloan with only a few light warjacks to handle the Crucible Guard army. I did give one away, and maybe committed the other a little early. Perhaps I should screen with my Hunters and other lights. Gameplay aside, I’m considering several different lists that may help solve some of her issues. Only, there is this dilemma…

What exactly is the Sloan Dilemma?

The problem is simple, really. How do you get maximum effectiveness from Kara Sloan and her warjacks while providing enough scenario play and resiliency to sustain a game past turn three? Okay, it’s not simple. Kara has a lot of output on one turn, and struggles every other turn. When your opponent doesn’t offer an assassination opening, Kara is forced to open fire on less important targets, and gets easily overwhelmed by large amounts of bodies or heavy armor. Is it possible to create a Kara Sloan list that has the best of both worlds?

Some solutions through the years

Courtesy Discount Games Inc, data from some of the major tournaments over the last five years or so, I’m going to take a look at some of the builds from some of the major tournament players. Tournaments – Discount Games Inc and filter using the search for Sloan. I have no context, unfortunately, of who they played or when they chose which list in their pair, or really any details. Also, some of these are dated, as the model points changed in 2021. While I am comparing these lists, be mindful that some of the players may have created these independently, or with input from other players. It’s hard to say, so while I may say something like “this model was dropped for a different model,” it’s not a reflection of the builds, but of how I threw them into War Room.

Lock & Load Masters 2017

Third place – Gregory Schadt

[Theme] Heavy Metal

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    •  Hunter [10]
    •  Hunter [10]
    •  Hunter [10]
    •  Hunter [10]
    •  Hunter [10]
    •  Stormwall [36]
    •  Squire [0(5)]
  • Archduke Alain Runewood, Lord of Fharin [0(4)]
  • Captain Arlan Strangewayes [0(4)]
  • Journeyman Warcaster [4]
    •  Charger [9]

Like my early lists, Kara Sloan comes with a Stormwall anchor. Runewood is a little bit of a mystery here. He doesn’t offer much. His card hasn’t changed since 2016. He only offers Pathfinder to this army. Maybe Reveille? There aren’t any Sword Knights to synergize with. Back then, I would have rather brought along a Junior Warcaster for the armor buff to the Stormwall, or maybe Jakes 1, for an Ironclad. Problem is the balance between support, protection, and the gunline. Add an Ironclad, and something else has to give. Maybe a Hunter and change the Charger for a Firefly to pick up extra electricity damage from the Stormwall. Of course, I’m looking at it in today’s point costs. I think a Firefly was 8 points back then.

This looks like a list that leans into the feat, and Kara Sloan’s alpha damage output. The Journeyman keeps the Stormwall’s armor relevant, and Strangewayes offers repair and extra focus. The Stormwall is the late game piece, not engaging in melee until needed.

Lock & Load Iron Gauntlet 2017

First place – Patrick Dunford

[Theme] Heavy Metal

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    • Defender [16]
    • Defender [16]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hurricane [35]
    • Squire [0(5)]
  • Archduke Alain Runewood, Lord of Fharin [0(4)]
  • Captain Arlan Strangewayes [0(4)]
  • Journeyman Warcaster [4]
    • Charger [9]

Two lists including Runewood? Again, I can’t fathom the reason outside of Pathfinder, which is admittedly helpful to Kara. This one rocks the Hurricane, which does have the no-fly zone, bigger damage output, and some AOEs. It’s just a touch cheaper. I’m guessing the Defenders keep a screen of sorts going, and melee late game as well. This list is bringing three heavy hitters for both the ranged and late melee game.

All Ireland 2017

Third place – James Fitzsimons

[Theme] Heavy Metal

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    •  Charger [9]
    •  Charger [9]
    •  Charger [9]
    •  Charger [9]
    •  Hunter [10]
    •  Hunter [10]
    •  Stormwall [36]
    •  Squire [0(5)]
  • Archduke Alain Runewood, Lord of Fharin [0(4)]
  • Journeyman Warcaster [0(4)]
    •  – Firefly [8]

Another Stormwall list, this time with Chargers under Kara and a Firefly under the Journeyman. The firefly will synergize nicely with the Stormwall’s pods, but that’s all. I think four chargers is too much focus demand from Kara. She doesn’t have the fuel for three shots from each during her feat. She may pick up an extra POW 12 from the charger, but it won’t be boosted. Into squishy things, this might do okay, but it won’t crack armor like the Hunters or Defenders.

TEQ II 2018

Second place – Marc- André Leblanc

[Theme] Heavy Metal

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    • Charger [9]
    • Charger [9]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Squire [0(5)]
    • Captain Arlan Strangewayes [0(4)]
  • Lady Aiyana & Master Holt [8]
    • Captain Jonas Murdoch [0(4)]

Speaking of cracking armor, this list tries to solve that issue of guns topping out at a “dice minus four” shot into armor. Aiyana and Holt, a classic combination with Murdoch, add a two-point buff to damage to every shot affected by Kiss of Lyliss. The extra damage should come into play late game, when Aiyana and Holt can get within 10 inches of something big, and all the guns are easily in range.

GenCon Masters 2018

Third place – Anthony Gibbs

[Theme] Heavy Metal

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Squire [0(5)]
  • Journeyman Lieutenant Allister Caine [0(5)]
    • Ace [10]
  • Lady Aiyana & Master Holt [8]
    • Captain Jonas Murdoch [0(4)]

It’s interesting to see how new models affect different builds. In this case, the addition of Allister Caine allows Ace for some Shadow Fire shenanigans while providing a tough to remove solo. This list also includes Aiyana & Holt, for a possible double POW 16 gunshot from each of the Minutemen light warjacks.

World Team Championship 2018

Third place – England Knights – Jake Wilstrop

  • [Theme] Heavy Metal
  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    • Firefly [8]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Captain Arlan Strangewayes [0(4)]
  • Journeyman Lieutenant Allister Caine [0(5)]
    • Ace [10]
  • Lady Aiyana & Master Holt [8]
    • Captain Jonas Murdoch [0(4)]

This iteration brought a firefly, at the cost of a minuteman. Room for Strangeways was made by dropping the squire. I’m not sure about the inclusion of the Firefly, and although I really like the Minuteman, having four means Kara is expected to spend three focus on the warjacks each turn. It could be the Minuteman swarm is a distraction, allowing Hunters to hunt unfettered by enemy engagement.

Adepticon Masters 2019

Third place – Zach Watson

[Theme] Heavy Metal

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
  • Captain Arlan Strangewayes [0(4)]
  • Harlan Versh, Illuminated One [0(4)]
  • Lady Aiyana & Master Holt [8]
    •  – Captain Jonas Murdoch [0(4)]

This one uses Aiyana and Holt like the last two, but adds Harlan Versh. Why? Is it Purgation, or Witch Hunter? Something specific must have driven Zack Watson to pick up Versh. I honestly can’t figure it out. Is it to avoid taking Archduke Pathfinder? Another change from the previous list is lack of Caine/Ace for another Hunter/Minuteman each. This is a 5×5 where Minuteman has replaced the Charger. I think it still suffers the same problem, in that the jacks want focus. It does solve the issue of being engaged, as the Minuteman has gunfighter.

Gnomicon 2019

Second place – Piotr Palacz

[Theme] Heavy Metal

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
  • Captain Arlan Strangewayes [0(4)]
  • Harlan Versh, Illuminated One [0(4)]
  • Journeyman Lieutenant Allister Caine [0(5)]
    • Ace [10]
  • Field Mechaniks (min) [3]
  • Field Mechaniks (max) [5]
  • Lynus Wesselbaum & Edrea Lloryrr [5]

Here is another one with Versh. The pairing was a Brisbane list, also with Lynus and Edrea. For clouds, I presume. Although, I think Sloan has had Field Marshal [True Sight] for some time, so I don’t know why the cloud removal tech was needed. There is a lot of repair going on in this list. I’m guessing the mechaniks repair, but also claim zones. Honestly, I would have considered sword knights for zone taking, or even long gunners. I don’t see the point of so many mechaniks in this list. Usually, when a Hunter takes damage, it dies.

NOVA Open Champions 2019

First place – Anthony Gibbs

  • [Theme] Gravediggers
  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Minuteman [9]
    •  – Minuteman [9]
    •  – Minuteman [9]
    •  – Minuteman [9]
    •  – Reinholdt, Gobber Speculator [4]
  • Trencher Master Gunner [0(4)]
  • Trencher Master Gunner [4]
  • Rangers [9]
  • Trencher Express Team [0(5)]
  • Trencher Express Team [0(5)]

Trenches fill this list out, but no Grenadiers. Minuteman provides a front-line barrier, and Express Teams presumably knock things out of the way. Reinholdt is there for the feel-bad miss, I suppose. Rangers are there to ensure that doesn’t happen. Gunners give the Express Team an extra shot per turn.

Bokur Brawl Team Event 2019

First place – Anthony Gibbs

[Theme] Hearts of Darkness (Cygnar)

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Hunter [10]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
    • Minuteman [9]
  • Hermit of Henge Hold [5]
  • The Wretch [4]
  • Umbral Guardian [0(6)]
  • Umbral Guardian [0(6)]
  • Umbral Guardian [0(6)]

Now I’m excited. This is the first list I’ve seen with Infernals, and it appears as though the Umbral Guardians are being used to trigger Accumulator [Soulless]. It’s being paired with a Malakov list. Hunters and Minuteman fill out the battlegroup, and the Hermit provides the buff granted by Aiyana and Holt in earlier lists.

ConQuest Team Tournament 2020

Third place – Andreas Holm

[Theme] Hearts of Darkness (Cygnar)

  • [Sloan 1] Captain Kara Sloan [+28]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
    •  – Hunter [10]
  • The Wretch [4]
  • The Wretch [4]
  • Umbral Guardian [0(6)]
  • Umbral Guardian [0(6)]
  • Umbral Guardian [0(6)]
  • Griever Swarm (max) [14]
  • Trencher Express Team [5]
  • Trencher Express Team [5]

This Infernals list is paired with Feora 4. The ConQuest entry here is teamed with two other Infernals players, Tomasz Mucha and Stephanie Berry, neither of whom are running Hearts of Darkness. Probably a team decision based on their presumed matchups. This version uses both Umbral Guardians and a maximum Griever Swarm unit to hand out the extra focus. Leaning on the Hunter probably isn’t too bad in a team environment.

What have I learned?

Convention holds that the Hunter is a key model. More recently, colossal usage dropped, and the Minuteman entered play. It appears that there is room enough for a substantial amount of variety in the Sloan lists, even in Infernals. The question remains, why the shift to lights? Why no colossals and why no heavies?

Let’s look at some warjacks vs the DEF 15, ARM 16, 16-box default in Odds Machine, during Kara’s feat turn, assuming she cast Guided Fire, each jack has two focus, and they use their most powerful guns.

WarjackRATPOWShotsKill80% Ratio
Stormwall615365%12 0.35
Hurricane616373%140.42
Stormclad614235%7.50.44
Avenger514239%70.46
Defender615244%8.50.60
Reliant613224%6.50.50
Cyclone (rolling low)612327%70.58
Cyclone (rolling high)612776%151.25
Hunter76 AP245%9.50.95
Charger612328%70.78
Grenadier (no trencher)613241%6.60.73
Grenadier (1.5 points for 2 trenchers)613458%111.05
Minuteman614354%10.51.30
Firefly (outside 5 inches)61026.6%40.57
Firefly (inside5 inches)612228%71.00
Jacks vs DEF 15, ARM 16, with 16 boxes.

Most of the table is self-explanatory, except for the last two columns. This is how many points of damage would be dealt at an 80% confidence level, and the Ratio of damage to point cost. The higher this last number, the more efficient the warjack should be for its point value.

Let’s run the numbers again, but for DEF 12, ARM 20. I’m purposely skipping some jacks and conditions.

WarjackRATPOWShotsKill80% Ratio
Stormwall615328% 90.25
Hurricane616349%11.50.38
Defender615213%70.5
Cyclone (rolling low)61230.86%30.25
Cyclone (rolling high)61274.8%4.50.38
Hunter76 AP226.9%9.50.95
Grenadier with trenchers61347.12%5.50.61
Minuteman614312.48%7.50.83
Jacks vs DEF 12, ARM 20, 16 boxes.

When you look at how many hunters could take the place of a Hurricane, or Grenadiers, Minutemen or Defenders, things get wonky. Oddsmachine can’t calculate very quickly when presented with a high level of attacks. It screeches to a halt.

WarjackRATPOWShotsKill80% Ratio
Hurricane616349%11.50.38
Hunter x 376 AP699%32.51.08
Defender x 2715481%160.57
Grenadier x 3 with trenchers61312??????
Minuteman x 36149??25ish?0.92?
Jacks fighting a DEF 12, ARM 20 16 box model.

The Hunter performs VERY well on Kara’s feat turn. It punches way above its class, and is very efficient for the point cost. In fact, if you look at the Hunter in each context, it provides a very steady, reliable damage output. The POW 12 through 13s do well enough into low and mid range armor, but struggle into ARM 20 and above.

I think what we’re seeing is people leaning way into the feat, and the Hunter’s outstanding damage output.

How this influences my list building

I understand the lure of the feat. However, I don’t like playing list chicken. There is so much counterplay into guns, I would like something in the list to deal with the possibility of being denied a good alpha. The Minuteman solves for low armor dude-spam. Grenaders could also, but requrie some sort of trencher support. Also, the Minuteman threats in some wonderful non-linear directions. Defenders are also steady, while the Cyclone is highly variable, depending on how many shots the random roll gets. The Cyclone would be a good choice, but the Metal Storm gun isn’t as good as the Stormwall’s Chain Cannon. If this jack had dual attack, or the ability to lay out two covering fire templates, then I’d be all in.

I am tempted to run a Stormwall or Hurricane regardless of its points efficiency. The Hurricane has that great no-fly-zone, and the Stormwall can control the field when facing low armor single wound infantry. It can even stall out warjacks if given the opportunity with its pods. It’s a low probability, but it could be entertaining when it works.

I’m looking at needing someone to repair the Stormwall if it takes ranged attack damage. A unit of Trencher Combat Engineers is my go-to, because they can dig in and return fire if caught in an area where they’re exposed. The Journeyman Warcaster is a must-have for me, when fielding a colossal who’s armor is only 19. The Firefly is a cheap jack that could boost e-leaps and pod damage.

Next, I want to push the assassination threat up a notch. The Gun Mage Captain Adept helps bring down targets with Shadow Fire. After that, it’s just filling in the warjack points. Two Hunters, two Minutemen, and a Defender fill out the list. A single point remaining demands something silly like a Storm Caller.

  • Sloan 1 (+28)
    • Stormwall (34)
    • Hunter (10)
    • Hunter (10)
    • Minuteman (8)
    • Minuteman (8)
    • Defender (14)
  • Journeyman Warcaster (3)
    • Firefly (7)
  • Gun Mage Captain Adept (4)
  • Umbral Guardian (6) (free)
  • Umbral Guardian (6) (free)
  • Umbral Guardian (6) (free)
  • Stormsmith Stormcaller (1)
  • Trencher Combat Engineers (4)

This list should be doing 50 points of damage against ARM 20 things during her feat turn. The Stormwall and Defender should be capable of turning aside most armies if they gain too much ground. However, I can’t help but look at this list and think that if the Stormwall goes away, I could add another Defender, drop the Jr and Firefly, then add three more hunters.

  • Sloan 1 (+28)
    • Hunter (10)
    • Hunter (10)
    • Hunter (10)
    • Hunter (10)
    • Minuteman (8)
    • Minuteman (8)
    • Minuteman (8)
    • Defender (14)
    • Defender (14)
  • Gun Mage Captain Adept (4)
  • Umbral Guardian (6) (free)
  • Umbral Guardian (6) (free)
  • Umbral Guardian (6) (free)
  • Griever Swarm, Min (7)

Maybe we lean into the feat a little, but still have game because of the two Defenders and three Minuteman lights? The Griever helps score unit areas. As much as I want to rock the colossal, I think this is just smarter.

Next week, maybe I’ll have run it at least once, and I’ll post the results here. Until then, good luck in your games.