I finally had time for some Warmachine. I played a minor variation on the Butcher list that I've more-or-less settled on:
Alexia & the Risen
My opponent was still trying out the same list as last time; only it seems he was a actually a few points over 35 and had to make a couple of small changes:
Hakaar the Destroyer
We were playing... something with a central zone, two objectives, and a flag on each side that had to be dominated to score. I picked the objective that gave free charges because I was too lazy to think about what was most useful to my army. I believe he picked the Arcane Wonder for reduced cost when casting upkeeps. I won the roll-off and decided to go first for a change.
So last time when I put the Nyss on one side and the Risen on the other, I realised that left the Risen's flank as too weak and easy to roll through, with a low chance of collecting corpses. So this time I decided to actually follow conventional wisdom and put the Risen behind the rest of my infantry; I ended up with the battlegroup in the center and half of each unit on each side. The Eliminators went way in the back, with some space between them; I've become paranoid about losing them to boosted sprays, so I decided I would save them for the later game.
He also intermixed his infantry, with alternating rows together in a brick.
I spread out my Nyss and split up my warjaxes*. I had foolishly placed both my unit leaders behind my battlegroup without leaving room for them to get through, then activated the units first. As a result I ended up with a Nyss Hunter out of formation and couldn't give them Iron Flesh this turn. No big deal in this case since my opponent didn't have much ranged firepower. I had a lot of trouble deciding where to put everything; unlike my opponent I didn't have Martial Discipline so I had to try to figure out what I would need them to do later in order to leave them avenues to advance if needed. I put Fury on the Kodiak.
My opponent ran everything forwards. He put Defenders Ward on the Immortals and put up Paralytic Aura with the Krea and possibly with Xersis.
The Nyss stood still for the aiming bonus and shot down a bunch of Nihilators, then Zephyred backwards (I made sure to leave a few in the zone). My jaxes moved up a bit more, while everything else just shuffled about a bit. Alexia created a Thrall while charged an Immortal, but missed the attack. Butcher finally put Iron Flesh on the Nyss.
Holding his Nihilators back, he killed the Thrall and ran his Immortals forward to engage a few of the Nyss.
I dropped Fury and gave the Spriggan a full load of focus. Using melee attacks and CRAs, the Nyss took out a few immortals and another Nihilator. Practically giddy with anticipation, I gleefully announced that I was using Alexia's "Dominate Undead" ability, when my opponent informed me that Immortals are Constructs, not Undead. Sigh, I had been looking forwards to trying out some of her other tricks. I boosted a handcannon shot instead but missed.
The Spriggan aimed and fired his grenades at a pair of immortals. I boosted the first attack roll and rolled three sixes; the boosted damage roll killed the target. The second attack missed, but only deviated an inch so I still rolled the POW 5 blast. I needed a fifteen to break the Immortal's ARM of nineteen... AND I GOT IT! That's right, the Spriggan killed an ARM 19 model with blast damage! MADNESS!
Finally I moved Butcher up and killed another Immortal, running the Wardog around to keep close. I figured that at best he could get two or three Immortals into Butcher, but at DEF 16 ARM 20 I wasn't too worried.
Turns out I had moved Butcher into Xersis charge range. The Krea tried to paralyse Butcher but missed. A Drake landed a boosted spray on him and rolled an impressive 16 to take off 8 boxes. Xersis then feated and charged in, boosting the attack roll and doing exactly 12 damage with his first hit, dropping the big man.
The game had been going so well for me until I got greedy and walked Butcher to his death! Not only did he not have the right tools for dealing with Iron Fleshed Nyss, my dice were hot the whole game too. For what it's worth my opponent had good dice too... the few times he got to use them.
By the end of it I had a dead Thrall and four dead Risen (well, technically they're all dead, but...), of whom I had killed two myself. The rest of my army was untouched, not counting Butcher himself of course. My opponent had lost half of each unit, and without a good way of taking out the Nyss was most likely going to struggle to stop me from winning the attrition war. Having said that it's possibly he may have been able to take out the Nyss holding the zone and then jam me out, winning on scenario.
I think my opponent deployed his unit so as to deal with melee threats, but because I was keeping my distance and trying to take out his front ranks with shooting and delay his reaching me, it didn't work out too well for him. I think he might have been able to get his models into mine earlier if he had put his put his faster models in front and run them forwards as quickly as possible. I don't know if that would have made a big difference though.
The whole game I was pretty much at a loss for where to put most of my models; the Nyss were the easiest, but since everything else was just standing back and waiting I couldn't decide where they needed to be. The big jam in the middle also proved to be a problem once or twice, with the Wardog for example needing to run in a huge loop just to move a couple of inches forward. I definitely need more practice.
I also had trouble visually distinguishing between models in the sea of white primer; at least once I picked up an Eliminator thinking it was a Risen. My opponent must have better eyesight than me since he spotted my mistake from across the table.
I considered trying to play for scenario but didn't know how I was going to be able to do that with one effective unit and a pair of slow warjaxes facing infantry that could go up to P+S 16 with extra damage dice, except by thinning his ranks with shooting first. Consequently I completely ignored the flags and objectives. Perhaps I could have jammed him away from one flag and dominated it with Butcher, but without thinking it through too deeply it just feels like that would have left me vulnerable and I wouldn't have been able to also protect both the zone and the other flag.
While I think that this list seems to be working well against Skorne, I believe I might enjoy eSorscha more. She has the Iron Flesh for the Nyss, her feat will do pretty much the same job as the Butchers, with Boundless Charge I can be more agressive with my warjaxes and I'm not reliant on the Kodiak, and she has the mobility that I enjoy in a caster. Plus I'm less likely to be stupid and leave her forwards to get killed, especially since she has a much better ranged game. Of course I would lose the whole "whatever else happens I can still kill anything with the Butcher" deal that Orsus brings, so while I expect the list to be more fun with her, I'm not sure it would actually be more powerful.
*Excerpt from "The Winter Guard Infantryman's Primer" by Gervaldt Irusk:
"Warjaxe (noun): A Khadoran term for a large steam-powered axe used mainly by Warcasters, that walks to battle on it's own legs and crushes the enemies of the Motherland, often with smaller axes held in it's mechanical hands.
Warjaxes (noun): plural of warjaxe."