Hundred Kingdom Chapter Mage: A Spell Discussion
Hundred Kingdom Chapter Mage: A Discussion
I have been playing around quite a bit with the rather wonderful Chapter Mage in our games both in physical games and online over the pandemic, and I’ve noticed that she currently falls into one of two builds. She is either a Healer with the ‘Ninuahs Tears’ spell, or she is magical artillery with the ‘Fire Dart’ spell.
I want to discuss the other 6 ‘forgotten’ spells (though we’ll talk about the popular 2 as well) and how to get the best out of them. In some cases I’ll also put forward suggestions and possible house rules to try out and see if they change how you play this flexible character.
Stone Spikes (20pts): The intention of this spell is to grant additional defence to the casters regiment and to make an enemy think twice about charging. In practice it doesn’t really work like that, and the reason why is that it only works when an enemy charges your unit, and not at any other time. If your regiment is in a position to get charged at the start of the turn, the enemy commander (knowing that you have this spell) is likely to stick his attacking regiment at the top of his draw deck to get into combat before the spell activates. Sure, if you get supremacy then you can cast it before they get in but it is a gamble. Assuming he charges first, the spell is useless until the combat is concluded. In any case, the decay happens at the end of the attacking units activation, so they’ll still attack at full strength before getting impaled – not really representative of stone spikes eviscerating those charging in is it?
So how could we improve it? I would personally change it to immediately inflict Decay (2) on any regiment engaged with the mages unit. This is then an immediate effect, which better represents stone spikes suddenly erupting out of the ground.
It does change the nature of the spell from a defensive effect to an offensive weapon, as you can charge your regiment in and then cast the spell, as well as use it to inflict wounds in an ongoing combat. This would then compete against Fire dart as a damage dealer.
Of course if you did want to keep it purely defensive in nature, I would simply change the wording of the spell so it lasts until the start of the mages next action, rather than at the end of the game turn. It means the spell has a greater chance of being relevant.
Call Fog (20pts): This spell is actually quite underrated in my opinion. It is subtle, but it amplifies the survivability of your men at arms as objective scorers. It comes into its own if you are facing a strong gunline. Imagine you are facing the dreaded Dual Marksman/Dual Vanguard Infiltrator combo. Normally sticking your head out of cover is guaranteed to get the head shot off, but with this spell in force you will likely be able to hold an objective for a few turns even against several ranged units pumping shots into you. Even better is that with a Seasoned veteran in the unit as well, they can get to defence 5 at long range or if the objective is in obscuring terrain. I mention it in some of the other entries below as well, but you can also combine with resolve buffing measures (Shroud of St Lazarus and Extra stands) to make a D5/R5 beast of an objective holder. It is designed to be used at range though, so you need to be sure that your battle plan involves these guys staying away from combat and on an objective etc….
Earth to Mud (40pts): This is the most expensive spell in the Mages arsenal and I’ll be honest, at first glance it is hard to justify why. But let’s take a detailed look into the mechanics of the spell. It has a 16” range and limits the target regiment to one move per turn instead of 2. So how does this help? Imagine if you will, you are facing a Hold Raegh in a 5 stand unit of Dragonslayers. In a straight up fight, you are not going to do enough damage in one round of combat to render them combat ineffective (I could argue that a Priory Commander activating his supremacy ability with a big unit of Crimson Tower Knights could do it, but its pretty specific!) so you need to keep them away from the fight and slow them down so you can lob more crossbow bolts into them. By casting this spell, you are delaying them from hitting your lines by 2 or even 3 turns assuming you keep up the casting. If you keep moving back and kiting them you’ll be moving back as fast as they’re moving towards you, thus effectively removing them from the battle. Nice in principle? AWESOME in principle, but we are not taking into account objectives.
In reality, the enemy heavy hitters only need to advance so far to be relevant. They could end up parked on an objective, or deny your own regiments space to advance into your own objectives, or even end up in combat despite your best efforts. At that point, this expensive spell ceases to impact the game.
So how could we improve it? Would a price drop do it? Probably not. Could a complete locking of enemy movement do the trick? Absolutely! It would then justify its heft price tag if it stops the enemy from moving at all. We still have the situation of it being irrelevant once the enemy regiment is in position, but you could totally prevent them from getting there, forcing the enemy army to deal with your caster to unlock them.
If that feels too powerful then we could change the scope of the spell completely by having it that on a successful cast, the targeted regiment counts as being in very dangerous & hindering terrain until the end of its next activation. All of a sudden, you are dealing direct damage to stands (and we all love that) and you are preventing inspiring charges/impact hits on the enemy unit (unless they’re lights)
Either would capture the feel of sticking mud, but in way that has more of an impact on the game. For a 40pt spell it should be awesome!
Kindle Courage (15pts): This spell is very odd one. It is designed to enhance the durability of your regiment by increasing the resolve, therefore reducing the casualties suffered in melee or by direct damage spells. Increasing resolve from 2 to 3 on a Men at Arms regiment doesn’t sound like anything to shout about, but it is when applied in combination with other resolve enhancing measure that we begin to see its worth. Adding the Shroud of St Lazarus adds +1 to resolve, adding additional stands of Men at Arms will give another +1 (+2 if you go 7 or more stands). Combined with a Seasoned Veteran for Bastion, and suddenly you have a Defence 4/Resolve 5-6 unit that will be very difficult to remove from the table. It is the complete opposite of Call Fog and is designed for regiments that intend to be in combat, so if your plan involves keeping this unit away from the enemy then it is of limited use.
Fire Dart (15pts): I love fire dart! It is probably one of the best spells in the game right now. It has a long range of 16” which increases to 27” effective range when combined with a double march and banner on the men at arms (Fun fact! Give the Mage the ‘Olefants Roar’ heirloom to get the men at arms moving and then her casting in the same activation) It is one of only 2 things in the game currently that have armour piercing 2 rule, with the added benefit of causing resolve checks for any casualties inflicted. Don’t forget that you can still cast firedart when engaged, as long as you target the unit you’re in contact with, which indirectly makes the mage a combat character as well. It really is a gem! The main issue with it, is that it is so good that other spells simply pale in comparison. It is also probably too cheap. 30-40pts feels better for such a flexible and devastating weapon.
Guide (10pts): On the face of it, this spell is really weak as a mage cannot begin the game in a ranged unit. That is true, but there are certain things you can do to make this an effective choice with a useful battlefield role.
The first thing to remember is that a Mage is also more than just a spell caster, she is a ranged unit herself. she can be turned into a really decent ranged unit with the addition of the Kiss Farewell heirloom. This will give her a 6 shot ranged attack at 20” range, with a natural volley of 3 (up to 4 if you take aim) with deadly shot (so double wounds on multiwound units). This heirloom is the only way to currently get the awesome deadly shot special rule into the Hundred Kingdoms army, and it is a fine way of combating things like Nord Bow-Chosen and Mountain Jotnars that have poor defence but lots of wounds. For just 10 points, this spell means that you are landing even more of those accurate hits.
However, there will always be an argument as to whether this build is as good as simply giving her Fire Dart. There is also nothing stopping you from taking Fire dart AND the ranged heirloom (You horrible person!), meaning that this spell needs something else to make it relevant.
This spell needs to be improved by giving it a 12” range, or boost the points cost and give it a 12” area of effect, allowing the flexibility to buff nearby units without having to mess around with the seek new escort action. This would make it a useful choice if you have lots of longbowmen etc…. If going for the area of effect version, I would pop the points cost up to 20pts.
Seeking Winds (20pts): I’m not going to repeat myself here. It has the same problems as Guide with the added hindrance of not benefiting the mage herself (it only removes obscuring for range – and a mage as a single model stand doesn’t suffer from it). Giving it a 12” range or area of effect would be the first thing to change. However I think we could one better and let it remove obscuring for terrain as well. Laser guided arrows in a force with multiple longbow regiments could well tempt people away from fire dart! I wouldn’t even increase the points value for it with these changes.
Ninuahs Tears (30pts): Another top tier spell. This turns your Men at arms into some of the sturdiest infantry around, especially when combined with the Seasoned Veteran and some buffs to the units resolve (See the Kindle Courage entry above for details). You will end up with a Defence 4, Resolve 5, healing regiment that will be incredibly difficult to shift. I’d encourage going for a tactical 2 retinue for the rerolls to the rare failed resolve check, and a tier 1 magic retinue for an extra dice roll. I’d also heartily recommend the focussed mastery for 15 points to allow you to reroll a single failed D6. Its only weakness is that it only works on the mages own regiment, but to be honest if it had a range, it would be way too overpowered.
In conclusion, there are loads of awesome tricks at the disposal of this rather wonderful character. Some of the spells need work, but try out the houserules that I suggested for the weaker spells and let me know what you think!