January 26, 2010

Nauticans in Depth: The Magic Phase

Part 3 of my analysis of the Nautican Army Book this time an examination of the magic phase. For comparison purposes I am using my High Elves as the primary point of reference for this analysis.

Nautican Spellcasters
There are three spellcasting characters in the Nautican army, spellcasters defined as characters able to carry Arcane items, they are:
  • Mermaids - Level 3 and 4 mages
  • Sirens - Level 1 and 2 mages
  • Coastal Hermit - Unique
One other character the 425pt Lord choice the Guardian of Time helps strengthen the magic phase, adding 1PD and 1DD to mages within 12" of him during the magic phase but is unable to cast himself.

Mermaids
The Archmages of the Nautican army. Taken at Level 3 for 205pts or Level 4 for 240pts they include the usual 100pt limit on magical items available to most Lord level mages. They also come with two special rules that make them interesting and difficult characters to field:
  • Oceans Grace - minimises their risk of suffering a miscast, although the rules here are a bit unclear as to whether it allows them to ignore the result of the miscast or the miscast altogether, i.e, to ignore or any damage or to cast spells regardless.
  • The requirement to field them either alone or in units of Trident Guard.
Sirens
The scroll caddies of the Nautican magical armoury, weaker than Mermaids and with a different set of special rules. Gone is Oceans Grace and the need to field them alone or in Trident Guard. Added instead is their ability to add +1CR to any unit who they are in the front rank of. That and enemies must take a leadership test at -1 to hit them in close combat (a reflection of Sirens mythical ability to enchant their victims).

Coastal Hermit
Is a unique Hero level character who while he cannot cast spells from any Lore does possess a Bound item as part of his standard equipment. This 'Staff of Summoning' casts at Power Level 4 and offers three options to the Nautican magical armory:
  • Snatch and Soar - where a giant albatross flies down and takes away a single enemy model, presumably to feed on or drop in the ocean.
  • Call Gulls - think of the movie the birds and you'll get the idea.
  • Coastal Mists - a protective spell helping friendly units against missile fire.
Spell Lores
Both mermaids and Sirens can choose spells from the Lores of Light, Life and Heavens offering them a solid range of spell options but preventing them from taking the truly nasty spells found in the Lores of Death, Shadow & Fire for example. This is a reflection of the story behind the Nautican army and is a good fit with the characters background.

The other option available to Nautican Sirens & Mermaids is Aqua Lore. Aqua Lore is the army specific Lore available to Nauticans, in the same way that Ogres have Gut Magic and High Elves High Magic etc. It offers a range of spells similar in nature to those of other Lores but with a flavour distinctly Nautican and is a more defensive orientated Lore. Its six standard spells are:
  1. Waterblast (5+) - basic offensive spell, not very powerful but still useful.
  2. Symbol of Southern Oceans (6+) - defensive spell helping move characters out of harms way
  3. Sea Surge (8+) - moves a friendly unit during magic phase allowing early charge
  4. Dead Seas of Time (8+) - defensive spell this time aimed at weakening enemy, probably under priced for what it does as the effect is permanent.
  5. Summon Elemental (9+, RIP) - does as its name suggests
  6. Tidal Wave (13+) - the big nasty spell of the Lore, summon a crushing wave that rampages through enemy units doing a lot of damage.
Key Nautican magical items
Like all races the Nauticans have a range of magical items available to them many of which help buff up the magic phase and the casting abilities of Mermaids and Sirens, some others allow non-casting characters to take magical items. There are also the usual array of protective items giving units and characters MR1 etc. Perhaps the primary Nautican strength in this area is the range of Bound items available to them which would serve to draw out an enemies DD and Dispel Scrolls, but also to help win battles. However, the wide array of Bound items is counter balanced by their fragility - most have special rules making them single use, or draining them on a 1D6 roll of 1 or 2 making them unusable thereafter. None are especially strong, e.g., there is no Nautican equivalent of the HE Ring of Fury which for 40pts allows any HE character to cast a RNG 24" magic missile doing 2D6 S4 hits. Among the more interesting items are:
  • Surface Rod of Divination - Adds +2 to all casting attempts.
  • Chrystal Chime - 1 use only, prevents enemy Mages from casting if they fail l/ship tests.
  • Muses Harp - bound item operates like Vahals Dance Macabre
  • Gift of Whale Song - 1 use only, allows a Mage to transfer one spell they know to another e.g., your Level 2 rolls a good spell, your Level 4 doesn't so transfer it over the Level 2 loses it permanently the Level 4 gains it
  • Knowledge of Shoal Strength - allows Mages to share PD
Overview
Nautican casters offer a range of options similar to other races and are perhaps fit in the mid-rung of army spell casting ability. The Mermaid is a particularly resilient character at T4 and L9 and a solid choice for army general, but she and the Siren are limited to M4. Mermaids also suffer from having to be fielded alone or in units of Trident Guard. While Trident Guard are an outstanding unit, and a must take for ALL Nautican lists, Mermaids and Sirens suffer further in that (unlike High Elves for example) there are NO protective magical items available to them, e.g., nothing to grant them a WS or AS.

Of the unique abilities on offer 'Oceans Grace' is fantastic but its rules need some clarification because you could interpret it in a way that makes miscasts impossible. Enchanting dream is also a good ability but is counter balanced by its placement on a T3 character who cannot take armour or any WS/AS granting magical item.

A good range of bound items really help strengthen the magic phase, and they seem to serve a similar purpose as those of the Vampire Counts largely focusing on denial of movement and initiative to the enemy and restricting your opponents tactical options. Most of these items though are single use, or could become useless after a single application.

Recommended Item Selections
Two items I would regard as mandatory picks for any Nautican General taking a magic focused army would be:
  • Chrystal Chime - @30pts this is an extremely cheap version of the High Elves Vortex Shard but not as wide reaching in its effect. But still the ability to stop any enemy mage from casting spells if they fail a leadership test at -1 is extremely useful.
  • Knowledge of Shoal Strength - In any army running a Mermaid and a Siren this would be a mandatory item for the Siren. Simply put it allows Mages to share PD. This would mean your Lvl 2 Siren could give both of its PD to your Level 4 Mermaid, giving that Mermaid a total of 8PD to play with in the magic phase (2 army, 4 for Lvl 4, 2 for Siren). Add in the Surface Rod of Divination which adds +2 to all casting attempts and you have an incredibly powerful Mage (albeit one that is easy to kill).
Overall, Nauticans look good in the magic phase not too powerful, not too weak about mid-range as I suggest. In play-testing I have used Sirens and found them solid character builds and useful casters. The key is to look at Sirens as supporting casters whose goal is to limit enemy options, and Mermaids as your offensive weapons - a role Sirens are not that suited for.

Next analysis - the Trident Guard

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