• Mordheim: City of the Damned DLC review: Witch Hunters

    By Rick Moscatello

    Brings a cute little crossbow to a swordfight.

    I'm on...-mordsplash-jpg

    Mordheim: City of the Damned is an awesome, intense, turn based game, based around small battles between warbands in a Chaos-infused city. It’s fun stuff, but once you’ve leveled all four possible warbands to the cap, what’s left?

    Buy the DLC for more warbands, of course. The four warbands already in Mordheim are Imperial Mercenaries (humans, very versatile), Skaven (rat-men, very quick and great special abilities), Sisters of Sigmar (human, all female, with great armor and awesome prayers), and Cult of the Possessed (human-esque, with mutations and nasty spells). Each warband has its own schtick as far as how it typically fights, as well as has a possible Impressive warrior that is awesome in combat.

    Like most fantasy gaming systems, Warhammer (the system upon which Mordheim is mostly based) has a plethora of sentient humanoid races, so I was pretty hopeful for a fun new race for the next warband. Orcs? Elves? Dwarves? Undead? Beastmen? Goblins? Lizardmen? Halfings? Alas, the new band is more humans, namely Witch Hunters.

    Let’s go over this new warband option from the ground up.

    Each warband has mostly “grunt” soldiers, and Witch Hunters have two types. There are fanatical guys with great morale, Flagellants, but the inability to wear armor, not even a helmet, make them pretty dubious. The other option is lightly armored infantry guys. They’re not special, either, but nobody expects much from grunts anyway.

    The next class of troops are heroes, and the first hero is by far the best.

    The Templar Knight is all kinds of awesome. They have the same kind of morale as Flagellants—they can never retreat. This can be a huge problem when you’re getting overwhelmed (you’ll end up getting hacked to bits), but the Knights can wear heavy armor and shield, and get bonus abilities when they’re in a tough battle. Gotta love these guys, even if there will be times when you’ll be annoyed that can’t get them out of battle to reposition them, at least.

    The Warrior Priest hero type is where things just start to break down. They can cast spells, but in the Warhammer world, magic is extremely dangerous to use. The Priest’s starting spell is flat out awful, a small situational bonus to resistance…every time you cast a spell, you risk your head exploding, so you want spells that help you win the game to justify that sort of risk. At least you don’t have to cast spells, and the Priest can get a decent healing spell later. In the meantime, you get a relatively mediocre warrior that becomes useful eventually.

    Finally, we get to the Witch Hunter hero, and his special “hand crossbow weapon.” His ability scores are split down the middle between melee and ranged ability, and there are two problems here. First Mordheim is a points-based system, the way to do well is to maximize the usefulness of your points. You don’t spend points giving a 2 handed weapon user excellent shield use skills, for example…in a similar vein, it’s tough to use melee and ranged weapons simultaneously, so, by definition, this is a warband that is forced to use points inefficiently, and the Witch Hunter’s bonus skill is also only useful in melee.

    The second issue is ranged combat is very situational, and generally pretty weak. Consider the picture:

    I'm on...-mordrng-jpg
    Seriously, the bald guy is out of range of my pistol.

    Missile weapons have stupid-short range, it’s very difficult to be in range of someone who can’t walk up and start beating on you within a turn. If you’re in melee and holding a ranged weapon, you can’t even fight back. Reloading ranged weapons also suck up movement points to reload. There’s also a huge penalty for firing into melee, so you can’t even hold your missile weapon users back while others fight.…there are other problems, but bottom line is the bulk of this game is about melee combat, with the occasional archery only for those that feel like it. Despite the inferiority, a point of missile skill is worth just as must as a point of melee skill, a sword costs just as many points as a bow. The quick-loading hand crossbow helps a bit, but it’s hard to justify having one witch hunter in the warband, because of the captain. A warband really can’t have multiple missile weapon users and be all that great.

    The captain, the mandatory leader you must have in every warband, is a Witch Hunter Captain. Much like the “regular” Witch Hunter, he too has a hand crossbow and stats split between melee and missile ability. He also gets a bonus to Dodge, which is…troubling.

    There are two ways a warrior in Mordheim can defend himself: Dodge and Parry. Armor gives a penalty to dodging, so outside of a few cases, there aren’t dodging armored characters. Either way, a warrior can easily get overwhelmed and can no longer Dodge or Parry and that’s when armor is important. Armor gives a very useful damage reduction…in short, Dodge is what you do when you can’t afford/wear armor or are unable to parry.

    Your leader, naturally, has a pretty big bullseye on his head, and so is likely to get overwhelmed. You’re going to put armor on your leader if at all possible. The Captain can wear heavy armor…but now you’re wasting the points you were forced to spend on getting that bonus to Dodge when you were forced to hire the Captain.

    I'm on...-mordimp-jpg
    Answer: Never. Question: When is a flaming axe not cool?

    Finally, the Witch Hunter Impressive is…not so impressive. He’s a big guy with a big flaming sword (or whatever weapon you give him). He can’t wear heavy armor, but Impressives tear up the other warriors so quickly that they don’t get overwhelmed much anyway. The flaming sword can even ignite enemies it hits, maybe (25% chance)…this will kill the enemy in about 10 turns or so, too bad most everything dies in one turn, perhaps two, of combat with an Impressive, and the flames burn out in two turns anyway (so the rules say, I’ve yet to have anything live long enough for that to happen). The Executioner is good, I guess, but he lacks the versatility and toughness of the Ogre, the brutality of the Rat-Ogre, the mutational fun of the Demon, and general usefulness of Maiden of Sigmar (she’s still the weakest Impressive, but she can carry stuff and cast spells, the only Impressive that can do either, much less both).

    The big worry in games like this is power creep, where expansions (or DLCs) make things so powerful that the previous stuff is obsolete. Props to the designers for not making the Witch Hunter Warband too powerful, as that would completely destroy Mordheim, and the conflicting abilities forcing inefficient point use don’t make them noticeably weaker, either (we’re talking a waste of 30 points or so in a 1,000 point warband).

    Still, I do wish the Witch Hunters brought more new stuff to the table than a cute little crossbow, because this is the only thing that makes them noticeably different than Imperial mercenaries until the band is fairly high level.

    Rating: 60
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Mordheim: City of the Damned DLC review: Witch Hunters started by Doom View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Adretheon's Avatar
      Adretheon -
      So Doom, this game is free to play this weekend, and I started playing it. I'm thinking about buying it on sale for 15 of whatever, but there's so much to take in for the two hours I've played so far. Is the end game worth the buy? I've read reviews that the RNG is just so destructive that is makes it unplayable out of pure frustration. Is that the case or is it not so bad?
    1. Doom's Avatar
      Doom -
      Heh, guess I should have responded earlier, but I don't think I get notifications for thread posts.

      Anyway, if you had fun in your 2 hours, then get the game. I've put many hours into the game. The RNG is brutal but...that's how Warhammer rolls. Once you know what's going on, it's not nearly so bad.

      I've leveled every race/band to the cap. My SIsters have a 100% win rate (no MP, obviously), and even the Witch Hunters are 94%, if memory serves.

      It's very, very, playable, just don't fall in love with any particular character in the band, because that's how the game is.