Friday, April 29, 2011

Spotlight: Bile Thralls

I think Bile Thralls need more publicity, and by god I'm going to make it happen. Anyone failing to realize the subtle way this unit dominates a table, will have a hard time with Warmachine in general, so strap in a enjoy.

The Kings of Vomit

Dead flesh is more versatile than machinery alone. With the proper application of our art even the wreckage of battle can rise to serve us once more. - Master Necrotech Mortenebra

Bile Thralls are amazingly powerful, and even a single Bile Thrall can wipe out an entire unit in the blink of an eye. Looking at the Bile Thralls you'll notice the extreme lack of everything, and finding a unit which appears worse at a casual glance is quite difficult. I strongly recommend you only bring a minimum unit, since Bile Thralls are expensive, and six of them will be enough
Bile Thralls: Abilities
The Bile Thralls all carry Bile Cannons, which are eight inch sprays with the POW to kill light and medium infantry on average rolls. This is often underestimated, and I've seen players refrain from spraying, since they'll probably miss anyway. I can't tell you how much that annoys me, so remember they have it, and you will occasionally get an extra kill (my personal record is three kills with one spray).

Purge is the main reason to bring the Bile Thralls, and entire games have been won with a single decent purge. In order to appreciate the ability you should go here, and just absorb the actual size of the Purge Template. The area covered by a Purge is enormous, and my personal record is thirteen kills with one Purge.

A purge will automatically destroy most single wound models. I'll repeat it once more for clarity: A purge will automatically destroy most single wound models. This is an amazingly powerful ability, and it's made even better with continuous corrosion. Continuous corrosion allows you to Purge models with armor you can't even dent, and just wait for them to melt when his turn comes around.

Multiple wound models aren't immune to Bile Thrall purges either, since the initial damage and continuous corrosion can easily handle most five wound models, or at least bang them up badly. Tough models won't like it either, as even if they make the tough rolls against corrosion on their turn, they're still knocked down (be mindful of effects that negate knockdown).
Bile Thralls: Tactics
Most players field Bile Thralls, and expect them to perform in an offensive capacity. These players are terrible disappointed with the unit, which is understandable, but it's actually the result of a false assumption, because: Bile Thralls are not designed for offense.
  • Counter-punch: There are few units that can absorb a charge, so striking first is a great asset. If you place a couple of Bile Thralls behind you lines, you create an almost unsolvable puzzle. If he engages your line he will be heavily punished, and if he refrains he will be on the receiving end of charge from your lines.
This is why Bile Thralls are so dangerous. If you place them correctly behind a unit they can clear out every enemy engaging you (and probably one or two of your own models, until you get the placement worked out), which leaves your unit free and ready to charge.
  • Bile-baiting: Having your Bile Thralls shuffle along behind your lines, provides your opponent with an interesting dilemma. If he has no ranged units he's in real trouble, but assuming he has a few ranged option he'll have to trade you. If he moves up a ranged unit and fires on you Bile Thralls, he'll be within range of your charge, unless he can manage more than sixteen inch range. There are units that can achieve that range, so I usually hide a couple of Bile Thralls behind large based models to be on the safe side.
I've never lost my Bile Thralls without gaining something of equal value in return. Taking down six Bile Thralls requires at least six shots, and they all need to hit and wound. In some cases a caster can protect them with Occultation or Tough, making it even harder to get them all, but they work almost as well without protection.
  • Surprise Purge: Excarnate allows for some truly absurd tricks with Bile Thralls, but you won't need Excarnate to take opponents by surprise. Death Ride (Darragh Wrathe) will give you the inch you need take on speed six models with reach, and Madelyn Corbeau can move a single Bile Thrall three inches in the maintenance phase. Together they can achieve a fifteen inch purge range for a Bile Thrall, and that's enough to dominate a table.
This works especially well with Terminus, but including Madelyn is rarely a poor choice. Fifteen inches is a huge distance, and a single Bile Thrall getting in a solid purge, will reduce a unit to a pile of melted flesh.
Bile Thralls: Records
It all sounds very nice, but does it actually work. The answer to that question is a resounding YES. Bile Thralls are loathed and despised by opponents in my meta, and the results are clear. Occasionally someone will try Bile Thralls in offense mode, and with Occultation it can be done, but the counter-punch is such a strong option, that defense Biles outshine them without help.
  • Most models killed in one Purge: 13
  • Most models killed by one unit: 27
  • Most models killed with one Bile Cannon spray: 3
  • Most memorable model killed with a Bile Cannon spray: Fell Caller Hero
  • Most memorable purge: Bile Thralls kill a Raek, Carnivean, and Typhon!
I can't even begin to describe how many games the Bile Thralls have won for me, simply by making it extremely hard to steal the initiative, and then a few by inflicting massive destruction to my opponent.
Bile Thralls: Summary
    Bile Thralls are one of the most misunderstood units we have, and used correctly they have a tremendous impact on the game. I've wiped entire units of the table, denied my opponent any opportunity of a dedicated charge, and siphoned his dangerous ranged units by baiting with Biles.

    I've won games by hiding a single Bile behind a hedge or building, and watching the look of horror on my opponents face, when he realizes he missed one, and it's within range. I've never had a game where I found myself regretting to bring them, and I guarantee that you'll get to love them if you try.


    1. The only *real* tactical article on Bile Thralls on the entire internet. Everyone else just talks about them in offense mode where they get killed before they do anything.

    2. I primed a number of models today including my unit of Bile Thralls. After taking the picture I thought of this article.

    3. Quick question for you Lameron:
      You say in your article here that you shouldn't forget about the spray cannon, but with RAT 3 and average defenses being 12 (from what i've seen so far) that's a 9+ to hit. Not very likely. Did you mean to use the spray cannon when you definitely won't be purging (i.e. only a few enemies in range)?

    4. I completely missed this comment, sorry about that. I mean that there are plenty of times where you know you're out of range for a purge, or the purge isn't possible because half your own army would die to friendly... corrosion...

      I see people going "meh, I'll miss anyway" on 12+ rolls, but 1/36 is still 1/36, and I've seen it happen. In this game everything counts, so unless there's a good reason not to do it, or time is running out, you should just roll the dice on that Nyss Hunter, and WHEN you hit it's epic.

    5. I took 6 Bile Thralls last night in my first Terminus list. As a bonus I just purchased the HUGE plastic purge Template.

      I was able to cover a huge mob of Cygnar troops, cavalry, 2 Jacks and the enemy Caster under the template! The look on the opponents face when I brought out the purge template was priceless! Madelyn C and Darrage Wraith helped bump the Bile Thrall from the middle of the pack out into the front.

      Thanks for the article!