Heavy Warjacks and Skirmish

Hey team, just thought I would share an impromptu house rule a couple of us have been trialing. Not looking to change the game at all, just trying to make it balanced for fun for all involved.

Due to people’s respective commitments (ie. family, work, other hobbies, etc.), our playgroup pretty much exclusively plays skirmish. The reason is that whenever we try to play a full or medium-sized game, we always have to call it early because it drags on for so long.
I have also found that the only thing a larger-sized game offers is more subs on the bench to call on and an extended duration, it doesn’t actually fundamentally change the game experience at all. For our playgroup (which is relatively new), this ‘is’ Warcaster.

We have found, that on a skirmish board, playing skirmish, a heavy warjack can be oppressive and effectively dominate the whole game. This is because:

In general, Skirmish games allow everything to score. Especially in scenarios where you can score anytime throughout the pulse round, a heavy can potentially score two points in a single round

With a limited pool to draw from, a fully loaded warjack can be very difficult to deal with. Especially when they can fly, have insane DEF and/or ARM and/or other resilience-related perks (i.e. effectively immune to attack types etc).

On a 3ft x 3ft table many heavy warjacks can park in the center of the table and reach out and touch a significant portion of the play area. Terrain mitigates this, but in some instances, the ability to ignore cover, stealth, or even LOS reduces terrain effectiveness. Besides, 3 power dice on RAT 4 minimum + volume of high-value firepower makes cover an unreliable defence anyway.

The ability to reactivate heavy jacks repeatedly is especially oppressive at skirmish levels.

On larger games, the inability to score is the most effective limitation to heavy warjacks in my opinion. The larger table size limits how much real estate the jack can suppress, and the larger army list means both players have more to bring to the table to ‘deal with’ the heavy.

What is your experience and thoughts?
(I have no interest in preventing players from using their toys or being a ‘fun gatekeeper’.)


My group has also exclusively played skirmish games so far for many of the reasons you already mentioned. Plus, we don’t have a painted Strike Raptor yet to match the already painted Nemesis. However, the Strike Raptor will be painted very soon at which points heavy warjacks will see play time.

I must say, the theocrafter in me fears a DEF 5, ARM 5, HP 4 warjack!

I believe you did not specifically mentioned it, or perhaps it is too late for me and I am tired :sweat_smile:. But what exactly is your house rule? Reading between the lines it is: Not letting (heavy) warjacks score in skirmish games?

If that’s it, it sounds like a sensible thing to do. I have yet to experience the power of a heavy first hand, but when we introduce them to our games, we will probably also house rule, that warjacks cannot score.

Yes, the house rule is no heavy warjacks.

Honestly, after putting everything into words has made me realise, maybe scoring is a solid fix? Doesn’t help with dominating the skirmish-sized table though.

Edit: Removed all the heavy jack stats as it is a rabbit-hole that diverts from the discussion.

No time for a full reply. I’m going to point out some inaccuracies that leapt out at me.

The biggest one of all: Warcaster tables should be heavy with terrain, such that one model simply can’t sit in the center of the table and have unobstructed firing lanes to the whole of the table. Half the game is mobility and positioning; leaving wide-open killing fields breaks the premise. Add more LOS-blocking terrain and I’ll bet the oppressiveness of certain models plummets.

“List of problems” inaccuracies:

Barring cover, a fully-loaded Strike Raptor starts at base DEF 2 and gains only +3 DEF from 3 ARC max, for a total of DEF 5. It goes to DEF 8 against ballistic with the Cyclone Cannon. The ammo type depends heavily on the faction. Outside of Marcher Worlds, non-ballistic weapons look pretty common. ISA 'jack weapons are predominantly non-ballistic. AC is about 50/50 for their jacks, but they’re going to be spellcasting you to death anyway. Empyrians have one single ballistic weapon in their whole army…?

The Strike Raptor does not have an anti-Stealth cortex…?

The combo of SPD 9 + Flight + 3" movement every time it is attacked is impossible, except under laboratory conditions. It can Spike for +3 SPD and Flight, but that ends at the end of its activation. Obviously, all the cortex choices are mutually exclusive.

As a final note: the argument (paraphrasing) “We don’t play bigger games because these models are too powerful in smaller games” is not especially compelling. Obviously, some models are going to be stronger on a smaller table, and complaining that certain models are too strong when they can both score and go on offense is…just…obvious, and not a design flaw? That’s why larger games exist, yes? Larger games mean your list can have specialist models to deal with specialist threats, and you can maneuver around the table and deploy stuff in safety, so it doesn’t sit there and get shot off the table the second it exits a gate.


Good feedback. I’ll go back and check my numbers on those stats (basic addition is hard, lol), it was a quick brain dump and could have used further review. I’ll dig into it and edit my previous comment later.

My argument is not what you think it is. My paraphrased argument is: We don’t have time for big games, and found Heavy jacks oppressive at skirmish level.’ I also asked for others’ experiences, because maybe we are alone in this.

We do have very dense terrain, probably double to triple any batrep I’ve ever seen. However, even with the absolute best manoeuvering, your models will end up with LOS being available, especially if the jack is in an elevated position. If done well, your units will probably be in cover. My comment is that with 3 power dice and RAT4 , cover is largely irrelevant, and can sometimes be ignored entirely with some builds.

Iirc Tune-Up adds 1 to a warjack’s defense?


It’s actually good to hear people’s experiences with heavies at Skirmish level because i’ve been worried about this exact issue; that heavies can be very oppressive in smaller games.

Since I’m the only one locally who has Warcaster armies, I “solved” this matter by painting my Skirmish armies without including heavies or vehicles. Most are two light jacks, three units, three solos + hero solo. So if someone wants to play Warcaster, they’ll be stuck with the model selection I bring.

So far I’ve managed to expand my ISA and AC forces to full 15 units + 3 solos, including their vehicles and heavies, so those two forces can play a full battle against each other. I intend to paint my Marchers and Empyreans up to 15+3 eventually, but for the time being I’m occupied with other painting projects.


If is a common thought that heavies have a big impact on skirmish games, for reasons you mention. It’s not like they’re unbeatable, just a bit above the curve in impact on the game (especially with reactivation effects).
The strike raptor and sentinel in particular, with good weapons, powerful defensive abilities and good support solos (especially reactivation effects).

Is this a problem? I don’t think enough to ban them, if only because plenty of players have heavies but only enough models for skirmish. There’s a feels bad to saying you can only play some of the coolest models in the largest game.

I’d like to see more scenarios designed specifically to include or exclude heavies, letting you go all out with them in some scenarios, but let the other models shine in others. Limiting scoring in some scenarios is a softer way to achieve this.
You can agree with your opponent to use them some games but not others to get to a similar point.


Early on I also found Heavy Warjacks to be dominating in Skirmish games, mirroring all of what the original post described. I also think it can be discouraging to newer players to fight a Warjack sporting DEF 5+, so I only break out my Strike Raptor if I am playing someone who has a Heavy Warjack of their own.

However, as time has gone on, I do find they have a strong influence, but with the right terrain their ability to run the board gets checked decently well. The more Skirmish I play the more I find that I don’t have time to charge up my Heavy Warjack before it is needed, and without 2+ arc it isn’t going to be as dominating to the game. Even when I do get it charged up full it seems to work best when I can park my Strike Raptor somewhere to hold (or deny) ground, but that in turn means an arc investment on it is can end up under-utilized.

I do encourage veteran players to avoid playing a Heavy Warjack unless your opponent also brings one, but I also think with time the advantage of Heavy Warjacks balances out.


I don’t think they included Tune Up when I first read it. :slightly_smiling_face: But, yes, if you allow somebody to spend potentially multiple turns and multiple activations buffing something, it is going to be good. :slightly_smiling_face:

But even the most buffed-up, armed-to-the-teeth Strike Raptor does very little if it has no LOS to anything. :slightly_smiling_face:

Ok, so I played a Skirmish game last night. Here is how it went.

The empyrean player (great guy) deployed his Sentinel (Empyrean Heavy) and charged with 3 arc full first turn (with a card). It activated its Hurricane cortex giving it +3 movement and moved 9 inches, allowing it to manoeuvre to a position to kill one of my infantry, ignoring cover.

Turn 2 it reactivated, played a card that gave it +3SPD & flight. It moved 12 inches onto the top of the building I was hiding behind and opened up with all four shots. The 2x Phase Trajectile Cannons ignore cover and LOS. The Nova Cannon ignores cover, the Chronomorphic Accelerator is normal (but brutal). My Devine Tempest was set on fire, corroded, locked down and otherwise murdered. Other models were also killed or damaged.

Turn 3 the Sentinel reactivated a third time, flew another 12" and almost cleared the table with the exception of a solo (on the other side of the table) and a couple of random survivors.

End of Pulse Round.

The only reason it didn’t activate for the fourth turn in a row was that I was the first player and managed to Cryolock it. So that was lucky I went first I guess.

Summary: This was a ‘perfect storm’ scenario. However, not that unlikely given a 12-card deck, recycling 3 cards a turn, even best case this scenario gets pushed into the second pulse round rather than the first, either way, it’s still going to happen needing only 3 cards.

Taking cards out of the situation, movement 9, 3 arc and guns that ignore cover and potentially also LOS means that the densest terrain in the world can’t save you. I tried but couldn’t chew through 7 wounds at ARM 5. When I did wound him, he played a card that trivially healed his jack to full again.

Was it oppressive? Hell yes. If I dont get cover, or even LOS, and when the opponent has a flying threat projection of between 22-24" on a 36" table, its a thing.

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I am not calling the veracity of any of this into question, but I do have a lot of issues with this report. It sounds like your opponent deployed only one model besides his Sentinel, which is how he managed to activate 3 turns in a row. If he did so, that’s an insanely dangerous gambit. A couple good attacks from you and he automatically loses due to the Mercy rule.

(Edited to add: what is the Hurricane cortex? I don’t see that listed anywhere.)

And, as previously established: playing on a 4’ x 4’ table would greatly change this narrative.

Edited to add a second time: your opponent went first. Given your experience with heavy warjacks, what did your list contain to combat such a thing? There’s a strong counterattack theme in Warcaster. What did your list bring that could threaten his Sentinel once it moved into range?

Sounds rough. Also sounds like not allowing heavies to score won’t cut it. Only no heavies in skirmish would.

Play Primary missions with 4 turns per pulse? And 11/2 lists.

It does stretch game time, but not by too much. And the Primary missions are so much better balanced, in part because jacks typically cannot score.

If you cannot do 4 turns per pulse, just houserule heavies cannot score?

It doesnt solve the 30” board footprint issue (play on a 36” board and do 6” stealth and adjust objective distances) but it removes excess value from heavies.

He went second. I ran a unit and a solo up the board to score.

He deployed 2 models turn 1 and deployed more and more models every turn following turn 1. Because he could reactivate the Sentinel, he just never activated his growing army other than solos. So not a particularly hazardous one. A ‘couple of good attacks’ doesn’t kills a healing. 7-wound ARM 5 heavy with cover on turn 1.

Hurricane Cortex offers +1SPD for each ARC on the jack. [Sentinel details]

My list contained a Heavy Warjack (Nemesis - which got killed before it could activate - my fault for poor positioning), and 2x Devine Tempests (one killed before activation, the second killed after a single activation). The issue is that he was murdering so all my high-value models faster than I could activate them. He is a smart player and could move the sentinel to either attack the gate or any deployed models typically before they activated.

Thats my thinking too

What did he use to reactivate the Sentinel repeatedly? Was there something you could’ve done to prevent removing the activation token? (I’m not very familiar with the Empyreans or their options to do so.)

To guess: the factotum solo can jump start, and the cypher removes activation. A common sentinel cortex also gives eclipse drive (spike at end of activation to not gain an activation token), although it sounds like in this case they used a different cortex.

Even with just the cypher: you can activate all 3 turns of pulse round 1 relatively easily:
activate turn 1,
in ready phase all units activated so remove activation tokens,
activate turn 2,
use cypher to remove token,
Activate turn 3
End of pulse round remove activation tokens
Activate pr2, turn 1
By now, it is possible the cypher is back in hand, certainly should be by pr2 turn 3 if you play 2, discard 1 cypher every turn and have a slim deck

It’s possible to go through a game and only skip activating the warjack twice, and with jump start or eclipse cortex cover every activation


I agree, if someone pays for a unit they should be able to use it.

I think you might need more cover. I notticed the critical cover is after facing against MW.

Believe it or not squads somewhat counter Heavies by being cannon fodder. Especially if they have cover. You can cause a heavy to was 2 to 3 of it attacks on a squad if you are lucky.

Debuffs, when a heavy is on the field I don’t focus on straight damage, i debuff it, especially if you can force an activation on it you might be able to stall it a whole pulse round.

If your ahead its actually pretty easy to keep heavies off field. If a player applies 4 to 5 five arc on a warp gate, you will just need to reduce it to 3.

This is just a personal opinion but, I think some of the weapons should be buffed to have anti-air and anti-tank perks. Or at least have this capability with charged or spiking. So far MW are the only faction with anti-air, no faction has an anti tank ( I would say add an addition power die to the damage roll if the target is a warjack or vehicle). The new KS should try to balance this stuff out, and have a list of buffs I like to apply to weapons and units as house rules to make them more viable.

I also think I a cool counter to Jacks would be something like a hard point targeting skill. Lets calling it “mangle” or something. An attack and target a hard point on a jack, and that equipment is disable. Reducing the jack offensive power.


Should have put this earlier: a toolbox for countering or at least recontextualising heavy warjacks.