An equally deep dive on the "offensive" red guys that often have more tricks than first expected.
Ah, my favored red guys. Not only do they match the color of my club (YNWA), but they also appeal to me in the same way most minis games' evil factions do. As I noted in my piece on Runewars, despite a lifetime of pursuing progressive political goals, when it comes to minis wargames, I tend to favor the "bad guys." (I'm a social justice berzerker!) There's something about the aesthetic appeal of the demon-worshipping Uthuk Y'llan that sings to me louder than a faction like the Daqan Lords. It's the savage side of me that can emerge in a board game, rather than in real life. (Positive for everyone, I think.) The charge against the Uthuk in Runewars was that they snowball early but can't maintain their position in the late game and it's also true in B2E that they often come out swinging in the early turns, just by the nature of their units and Lore cards. But there's somewhat more opportunity to sustain their presence in this game than in the strategic contest, based largely on how their different units interact with each other and the many opportunities to sacrifice one for the significant advantage of another. That, of course, fits right into the Uthuk theme, as well, but also allows for variation within army lists that don't become wholly dependent on key units to be present. In other words, things are usually pretty balanced, no matter what list you show up with.
Blood Harvesters- Move: 2; Attack: 3; Health: 3
Harvesters are the direct counterpart to Citadel Guard and are the example of a rather unitary focus compared to a more varied one. Harvesters are about one thing: Killin' people and dyin' while doin' it. Getting a Heroic result means another kill on top of any Strikes and Cleaves. It also sets you up to have 4 dice in the next round of combat, instead of only 3. Rage is the impetus to use Frenzy, even to the point of having only one figure left in the unit, since you'll be Weak, which means Cleaves no longer count for damage, but it's a one-model unit that cost 4 points with 5(!) dice. That's some serious value, often even if it comes at the cost of losing the unit. It's especially helpful when you're trying to extract an opponent from a reinforced position and have taken some battering on the way in. Harvesters will continue to make an argument for being ordered, even later into the game when they've taken significant damage. That's not often something you can say about the "common infantry" of many minis wargames and is, again, the contrast to the same argument put forth by Guard for their versatility. I've played lists that essentially max out the presence of Harvesters, simply because they continue to dish out so much damage. It's also worth keeping in mind that forest hexes limit units to two dice BEFORE bonuses, so Rage is still applicable in those instances. Desperate Ploy can often be an ideal Command card for them, since it restores your Cleaves to your pile of dice even with Weak units.
That, of course, makes Harvesters an ideal target for Blood Sacrifice (which will then be used to heal your precious, precious Obscenes...), since you can take a full-strength unit to 4 dice while benefiting another. It also makes Weak units the perfect target for Fury of Y'llan, since you'll be rolling 8(!!) dice with full effect (e.g. Cleaves count as normal.) But they're also good subjects for Unstoppable, since you can get in that 5 dice from a Weak unit as a parting gift to the enemy. And, of course, Blood Hunt gives them the Guard's Pursue abiilty for one round. As a somewhat niche case, having that "maxed out" list of Harvesters also will often enable the use of Encircle and the potential torrent of damage that it unleashes which, frankly, is often overkill when trying to remove a single enemy unit, but could be a quick method of dispensing of a Legendary, too. Like many Uthuk units, Harvesters want to get to grips with the enemy, so scenarios like Treasures of the Shadow Peaks and Power of Infiltration, with a high number of forward deployment spaces can work well. The former favors a high number of units, as well, while the latter means that any Supported unit compelled to retreat gets to heal, which then re-empowers the use of Frenzy. Without a Trace enables a similar approach, since you can decide which Heroic results are used for Frenzy and which to heal with. Staking a Claim is another scenario that benefits from having a higher unit count and one in which forests don't inhibit your Harvesters' progress toward their victims. And, of course, it must be said that scenarios with Blood Field hexes, like The Crimson Roots, are often ideal for Harvesters.
Berzerkers- Move: 2; Attack: 2; Health: 4
BER-ZER-KER! (I realize I'm totally dating myself by now.) This unit holds a unique place in being the only non-Legendary unit type with more than 3 health. It pays for it to a certain degree in only having an attack value of 2, but both of its abilities compensate for that in a decent fashion, since Thousand Cuts not only gives you a third damage result, like Harvesters, but also allows you to apply it to any unit nearby. With that you can choose to attack a stronger unit and gamble on the result that might allow you to eliminate a second one, in addition to whatever you inflict on the first. What helps that gamble is Deranged, since you can always reroll one of those annoying Pierce results and come up with something better. Berzerkers also benefit from that unit health in taking a greater number of casualties to reduce them to being Weakened. Holding on to your Cleaves as long as possible means more possibilities to use Deranged on Pierces and occasionally Lores instead. That makes for a surprisingly useful "secondary" infantry unit. They don't unleash the frequent power of Harvesters, but they do have a role in running interference for other units, as well as occasionally holding VP banner locations simply from the 30% more wounds needed to remove them. But their lower attack value means that they can't often run solo in the way that other Uthuk units can. Their inability to one-shot an opposing unit means that they need to work in concert with their spiky brethren. (Just to be clear: You should always use units in support of each other and never expect to one-shot anything on a regular basis, regardless of which faction you're playing.)
Because of that higher health, Berzerkers are another good target for Blood Sacrifice, with their reduction in numbers only bringing them to "normal" unit strength. Similarly, their already present desire to be adjacent to many enemies for Thousand Cuts also makes them a good way to enable Encircle, if not necessarily become the direct target of it. Similarly, Distraction can find great use allowing potentially multiple units of Berzerkers to be rolling 3 dice. That need to get close makes them a useful target of Predator, as well. Likewise, Fury of Y'llan applied to them can do a raucous amount of damage in a crowded situation. The ultimate play, of course, is Frenzied, since it's board wide and boosts two stats, but don't neglect Bone Spurs here. It's costly and not reflective of their unit cost, but opponents will often get annoyed enough to try to commit serious resources to clearing out your Zerkers. The surprise of Bone Spurs is almost always well worth it, even at 6 Lore. Scenarios with high numbers of forests, like Land of Our Fathers, can be really useful with Berzerkers, since they're already "restricted" to 2 dice. Plus, they'll gain a third for being on the Uthuk banner marker. Blood in the Water will also be useful, since the significant terrain blocks will often encourage enemies to seek the clear channels and, thus, expose themselves to having multiple Berzerkers in contact.
Viper Legion- Move: 2; Attack: 2 (1-4 Ranged); Health: 3
Viper Legion are more of a "wait and see" unit than their Daqan counterparts. Viper's Bite often has no immediate effect, unless you happen to roll Lore while also rolling the Heroic that places the Poison token. In that respect, it's often wise to coordinate VL strikes with other units to see if Lore results can pay off. While it does present a great opportunity to use Lore results more directly, keep in mind that the Uthuk have a more expensive pair of Lore decks than the Daqan, so you often want to keep the original purpose of Lore results (i.e. Lore tokens.) Of course, if you're directly killing a unit with those Lore results, that's often so much the better. So, it's a nice quandary to have. Of course, VL have the same restraint that all Ranged units do in B2E, in that only 1 of 6 results causes damage. Where Yeoman Archers depend on repeated attacks to be effective, VL depend on having a 1 in 3 result but only after another 1 in 6 result is garnered. That narrow window of opportunity (and loss of actual Lore tokens that would otherwise be gained) makes them a bit less appealing for most players than the Daqan version. But it is in some ways a revelation of just how much a "combined arms" force the Uthuk really are. Just like the blue guys, you have to find a way to make the different elements of your list work together, instead of just charging forward and hoping to hack things to bits. Again, B2E is a game about movement and positioning and you'll often discover just how threatening VL can be with the number of times opponents are willing to spend Lore to get rid of that Poison at the first opportunity, even if it's not an immediate restraint like Stun tokens. As with the Yeomen, taking VL makes Darken the Skies an excellent option from the Command deck, since it's their only opportunity to commit multiple attacks on one turn.
Obviously, VL are another good target for Blood Sacrifice (There's a theme here...), since having Weak status means nothing to Ranged units looking for Pierces (and Heroics), but it does mean that Fury of Y'llan can also be brutally effective with the Vipers, since it doubles their damage potential (or triples it with Poison.) Death Adder is of generally more use to drain the enemy of Lore, since they'll really want to get rid of Poison on potentially three different units. As with Berzerkers, coordinating strikes with your other units (shoot first, assault later) is usually a positive. Howling Giant Hills is the best scenario for Vipers, full stop. Gaining range and shooting through blocking terrain while occupying hills in the first place to avoid intervening units is ridiculously good. Bleeding Skies requires Ranged units for the VP goal, so fielding a mix of VL, Sisters, and Grots isn't the worst idea, but hills are confined to one section of the board, whereas in Treasures of the Shadow Peaks, you can cover a greater portion of the board and get VPs for sitting where you want to be, anyway.
Blood Sisters- Move: 2; Attack: 3 (Ranged 1-3); Health: 3
While Greyhaven Battlemages and Necromancers are direct in their application, Blood Sisters are a bit more obscure. Like Viper Legion, they can use Lore results as an additional way to deal damage, turning them from a Ranged unit with a 1 in 6 chance to one with a 1 in 3 chance with Blood Magic. But they have to Bleed a friendly unit in order to do so and Bleed tokens don't present the opportunity to remove them until your Order step, which means that you're best off applying said weakness to a unit that's either already attacked or which won't be attacking this turn. Regardless, if you want them back at full effectiveness, you're going to need to spend 2 Lore on top of the fact that you didn't gain Lore for the result that you originally rolled. Again, keeping in mind the cost of the Uthuk Lore decks, this can seem a steep price to pay for the privilege of doing one damage. Additionally, Syphon is a solid ability if your Sisters have already taken damage, but that's rarely as frequent an occurrence as it is for Harvesters or Rippers or pretty much any other unit in your army. If it caused damage and healed, it would be great. As it is, it's extremely situational. But this is where an alteration to approach may be important. Most play Uthuk as an entirely offensive force. But Sisters can actually be surprisingly useful in a counterattacking role. If you're in a scenario that requires holding particular pieces of terrain, not only can they often be more directly dangerous than VL with 3 dice and Blood Magic, but also more durable with Syphon. They're one of the units that can soak up hits and then respond in kind, similarly to Harvesters. It still doesn't make them quite as useful as the other casters, but there's an argument to be made for their inclusion.
That more defensive/resilient approach to a contest does make an argument for including things like Parry and Rapid Growth in your Lore deck, since the combination of those two plus Blood Sacrifice, potential Blood Fields, and the Sisters' own healing will make you very difficult to dislodge. This is on top of favorites like Bone Spurs. Obviously, the Crimson Roots is great for that playstyle, since you get two Fields for free with the scenario and if you occupy both, you get 1 Lore which helps pay for removing Bleed tokens and for your more expensive Lore cards. Treasures of the Shadow Peaks also often argues for an army to be split into two wings on either side of the river, which means that a support unit like Sisters becomes important in both wings. The Barricades that invoke the bonus of Bleeding Skies also argues in this respect. And, of course, The Blood-Stained Forest directly invokes the involvement of Caster units.
Flesh Ripper Brutes- Move: 3; Attack: 3; Health: 3
As the lone cavalry unit of the faction, Flesh Ripper Brutes are actually one of the more feared units in the Uthuk list, given their extra damage from Heroic results with Bloodthirst and their ability to Pursue 2, which means they can latch on to a leg even after inflicting two Morale results on an opponent. Since the game's release, Rippers have often been the face of the Uthuk Y'llan, which is probably why they made it to the box cover (alongside what seems to be a Lancer, who wouldn't emerge until the expansions.) Their potential for movement across the board is considerable. That does require the ability to use Pursue, of course, but that plays right into our combined arms approach; not only in more easily enabling the Rippers to wipe out a unit and then move again to engage another, but also to activate their Bloodthirst ability, which requires the enemy to be wounded BEFORE the attack where the Heroic(s) is rolled (unlike Poison.) That ability does work hand-in-hand with Pursue, of course, if the latter was enabled by an opponent retreating, rather than being wiped out. I've often been able to hold an entire flank of a battle with only a couple units of Rippers, in part because of how mobile they are, but also because my opponent was trepidatious about engaging them. Deploy early and often.
We've now moved into the realm of units that should be the recipient of Blood Sacrifice's healing effect and Rippers are one of those. The look of despair on your opponent's face when this happens will be delicious. Their speed is what can make cards like Encircle viable and doubling down on that impressive movement with Predator isn't a bad idea. Unstoppable is also a good choice, given the damage potential that Bloodthirst gives them. Speaking of doubling down, tossing out a Double Strike after a unit has already Pursued can be really demoralizing for your opponent. But, of course, most important is Unrelenting, since it provides a frankly insane boost to an already excellent unit and the combat bonus carries through Pursue, as well. Power of Infiltration is a great choice for Rippers, since the narrow corridors provided by terrain makes it more difficult to hedge away from them. Plus, you'll often be eliminating units on the opponent's side, which is the VP goal (and enables Overwhelming Power.) Land of Our Fathers is also often a good choice, since you'll be wanting to get to that Uthuk banner, anyway, but can also enhance your attack, to boot. Blood in the Water specifically enables the Rippers to move through water and gain VP for wiping out the enemy there, which is a fair argument for their use as another counterattacking force, given the prevalence of that terrain on your edge of the board. But if the opponent's scenario has some, too, so much the better. Both The Cursed Glade and The Blood-Stained Forest removing forest combat restrictions for the Uthuk makes them a good choice, as well.
Grotesques- Move: 2; Attack: 3; Health: 3
Like the Blood Sisters, Grotesques are not an obvious unit to make good with in Uthuk lists. Also like the Sisters, they certainly seem to be more suited to an enduring and counterattacking support role, which makes them feel less "Elite" than most other choices in the game that carry that label. Certainly, both of their abilities make them seem to be more of a support/annoying role for Uthuk player/opponent, respectively. Moving to engage and getting a Heroic result for Lacerate means that they'll be less likely to suffer a significant counter if they don't remove the opposition or force them to retreat. Using Bone Blast instead of advancing means that, again, they can't be countered if they don't get a good result. But that "didn't get a good result" situation is often the one encountered by Uthuk players, both in my personal experience and from feedback I've seen from others. Restrained by basic infantry movement and lacking significant combat power or a way to enhance it, they often don't seem worth the points paid. It would be different if they simply seemed like a 'tweener unit that isn't as straightforward as other Elite powerhouses, but they often tend to pale in comparison to the results gained from all of those other Elite units, which means that the impetus to use them is lacking. Interestingly, when the Battlelore video game was introduced, the one unit that received a points change was Grotesques, reducing their cost from 6 to 5, which could make them more attractive.
If ever a unit needed the Fury of Y'llan, it's this one. Like the Sisters, given the role that they've seemed to be intended for, cards like Parry and Rapid Growth could be great in keeping your Grots alive and in control of the spaces on which they're sitting. "Durability" does seem to be a key word with them. Mass Transit, of course, makes up for their inherent weaknesses and I'm often tempted to take the card simply to cover for a poor Command selection, whether I'm playing Grots or not, since it can order my precious Obscenes and any Legendary. Predator may or may not be useful, depending on where you want them to go. Certainly, sitting in a building hex and using Bone Blast on enemies that move away is a reasonable choice and using Predator to get there is, as well. Picking Bleeding Skies for your scenario and employing Grotesques as cover for your Viper Legion and Sisters seems like a viable way to play a bunker strategy, especially since you'll have Barricades. Similarly, Without a Trace and Veil of Secrets tend to play into that approach, since you'll be able to spend Heroics on healing in the former and will be focusing on protecting a building in the latter. Staking a Claim, which rewards holding fixed positions in different types of terrain, is another workable pick for that defensive list.
Obscenes- Move: 1; Attack: 4; Health: 3
In total contrast to one of the poorer units of the game, Obscenes are easily one of the best. "But their movement-!", I hear you protest. Doesn't matter. In most games, they'll be able to activate Craving so often and will dish out so much damage that you'll barely notice the turns that you had to spend ordering them to move a single hex. They're amazing. I've won more games on the backs of Obscenes than I have any other unit. If you can address the movement issue to enable Craving, via Lore or scenario, they'll lay waste to the enemy even better. And with Ferocity they're not even stymied by Morale results! Every time I get to spend points on them, I'm doing the Homer drool. "Can't talk. Killing." Of course, on the face of it, they're just like any other infantry unit, albeit slower. But no other infantry in the game outside of Reanimates begin the game with 4 dice in combat and this one won't lose dice if they take wounds. For the non-probability inclined among you, it can seem odd to be raving about only one more die than standard infantry like Guard and Harvesters receive. But it adds up quickly. Obscenes are my default unit in almost every Uthuk list and not just because they have the cool-looking weapons. Most opponents will be wary of Rippers. The experienced ones will be terrified of the Obs.
Cannibalize is the card that you use to sustain your Obs after the opponent figures out what a huge threat they are. Unstoppable is the card you use to get one more spiteful response in. Overwhelming Power is the one you'll use for them as often as you do for Rippers, if not more. Predator is a given, especially if it lets you activate Craving. As noted, I'll often bring Mass Transit even if I'm not using Grotesques, simply because it will let me activate both of my Obs units and probably my Chaos Lord in one turn, no matter where they are. As you might expect, Double Strike is amazing with these guys. The Crimson Roots is good, not only for the extra movement, but also for the potential healing if your Obs start in a Blood Field before racing across the map to chew on something. Power of Infiltration and Land of our Fathers are both great for the significantly advanced deployment areas. The Cursed Glade and The Blood-Stained Forest do not allow the enemy to shelter in forests.
Chaos Lord- Move: 1; Attack: 4; Health: 6
The Chaos Lord is a disruption unit. You're not likely to get him very far forward without the help of a scenario or Predator. But what he does generate is essentially a safe zone, as the opponent will often be reluctant to engage him because of how he can reorganize their lines with Terrify. Two retreats is a lot on a map the size of B2E's. Combine it with actual Morale results and you can send the middle of someone's army a long way from where it's supposed to be. Or, even better, if you get a unit of Rippers behind them, you can eliminate something on the spot via a regular damage and one Heroic result. With that aura of threat, you can essentially pivot your entire line on the presence of the Chaos Lord; terrain permitting. It's something you're going to have to build around because his limited movement and inability to access buildings will often mean that he's left behind when it comes to actual engagements with the enemy. Of course, if your opponent is aggressive and comes forward in his section, your approach can instantly change. But you have to be aware that the big monster is often more of a psychological threat than an actual one. Of course, with 6 health, he can take a lot of punishment and still arrive at full strength in the later portion of the game. But don't expect to do great things with him unless you're able to deploy him far forward enough to alter your opponent's approach in the first place (which you can do in some scenarios.)
Summon Swarm is actually a brilliant card to use with the Lord. Since your opponent will often try to veer away from your most dire threats (Lord, Obs, Rippers), dropping Swarm around them will disrupt their plans even further. Lord of Chaos fits right with the disruption theme, since you can take a move and an attack during your opponent's turn and after they've already chosen their Command. Interestingly, my greatest use of Dark Pact ever was restoring a Chaos Lord to full health from a single wound remaining, moving him forward, and disintegrating an entire Death Knight unit in one shot, but that's not something to rely on. Again, Predator is ideal for getting him into the thick of things and Mass Transit should be a consideration, since you can move him with the two units of Obscenes that you're absolutely playing. Like with the Obs, you're mostly thinking about scenarios that can provide extra movement, like The Crimson Roots, or significantly forward deployment, like Howling Giant Hills, Power of Infiltration, and Land of Our Fathers. But you also can use a clear path in the center so you can shift your lines from one side to the other without getting the Lord stuck behind terrain or, even worse, water. So Staking a Claim and Without a Trace could be considerations, as well.
Doombringer- Move: 3; Attack: 3; Health: 5
As with the Siege Golem, I'm less enthused with the big beetle than I am with the original Legendary for the Uthuk, largely due to its very average attack value and lower health. However, the Doombringer does have some tactical application that the Chaos Lord often lacks. It won't scare anyone, but it can occasionally take them by surprise if they forget to include Burrow in their calculations for where it can go and Immobilize for what it can affect. Burrowing your way next to a couple units of Guard and Golems that were about to push forward could be a great move. It might also get the beetle killed. In that respect, the beetle is a different kind of disruption unit. The Lord's capabilities are well known, so the opponent can play around him. The Doombringer has no such movement restraints, so it's far more difficult to predict where it might end up, pinning the enemy in place. Thankfully, its low attack value is enhanced by Devour, which means that 50% of its results can deal out wounds to most enemies in the game. You could almost consider the Doombringer a kind of "hit and run" unit, except it's actually "hit and you don't run" in function.
The Doombringer is potentially ideal in setting up cards like Encircle and Distract, since he can hold enemies in place to be surrounded over multiple turns. If you're going to attempt that strategy, Blood Sacrifice and Rapid Growth become even more useful to keep the beetle alive long enough to execute the rest of the plan. And, as usual, for a unit diving that deep and being implicitly surrounded by the enemy (whom can still attack), Bone Spurs at the right moment could do amazing work. As with the previous three units, Mass Transit could be a solid pick, pending Command card selection. Strangely, the beetle is the only unit in the game that doesn't have a Lore card tied to it. Generally, you're looking for scenarios that have channels or pockets of space between water, preferably, but forests are fine, as well. You want to use the Doombringer as the ultimate blocking unit, since he'll keep the enemy tied up between terrain areas so that you can close in with your more lethal attackers. Bleeding Skies, Blood in the Water, and The Cursed Glade are all good choices in that respect.
Lore deck 1: Blood Hunt, Blood Sacrifice, Bone Spurs, Cannibalism, Chaos of Battle, Dark Pact, Death Adder, Encircle, Fury of Y'llan x2, Lord of Chaos, Overwhelming Power x2, Pillage x2, Predator, Summon Swarm, Unrelenting, Unstoppable x2 Total cost: 70. Average cost: 3.5.
Lore deck 2: Blood Hunt, Blood Sacrifice, Bone Spurs, Distraction, Double Strike, Frenzied, Fury of Y'llan x2, Mana Break, Mass Transit, Overwhelming Power x2, Parry x2, Pillage x2, Predator, Rapid Growth x2, Scatter Total cost: 76. Average cost: 3.8.
As noted, these have higher total costs than either of the Daqan decks and one of the Waiqar decks, which means that there's greater demand for Lore and possibly less reason to exercise Lore results for abilities. As you might expect, the original deck was vastly more offensive than the Daqan's. The second deck added more defensive possibilities (like Rapid Growth) but none of them as elegant as what one would find in the Daqan cards. There are some significant impact cards among the more expensive ones, like the aforementioned Dark Pact, but also Chaos of Battle, which can ruin an entire turn for your opponent, and Scatter, which can greatly alter their positioning and either thwart their attack plans or set them up for one of yours, if not both. Also, I didn't regularly mention it because it would've been repetitive, but Bone Spurs is one of the best Lore cards in the game. When your opponent clearly loads up to eliminate one of your units, only for you make them immune and reflect all Strikes and Cleaves on the opponent, it can be devastating. It's a ridiculously good "countercircumstance" card, 6 mana cost or no. In contrast, the Uthuk counterspell, Mana Break, is almost absurdly expensive and gives the opponent a choice, even if it's not a good one. Also, both Pillage and Overwhelming Power are right in theme, since the former actually steals Lore from your opponent and the latter gains points for being on the offensive (e.g. wiping out a unit in the opponent's half of the board.)
So, those are my other favorite Reds. I've had far more wins with the Uthuk than either of the other two factions, but it is fair to say that they feel really driven to function in an aggressive fashion and are somewhat lacking in the versatility that the Daqan possess, especially given that the Warband of Scorn units are largely considered to be underpowered or, at least, less useful than their original counterparts, with the exception of the Berzerkers and occasional uses of the Doombringer. Nevertheless, the sheer power of the base game units and many of the Lore cards means that they're still competitive. Next time, we'll finish up with an exploration of the crypts of Waiqar the Undying and some final thoughts.