Initial Impressions: 5/10 - Meh
The fact is, Minions aren’t as deep as Mercs, but to be fair, Mercs have been around a lot longer. The result is that you are not going to get a lot of model content to read in this book. Furthermore, there is nothing new in the book – everything has been fully spoiled or already exists! The joys of obtaining the new army books for the other factions was to read up on models that had been spoiled or hinted at and to see the remaining nuggets that hadn't yet been mentioned.
Unfortunately, that joy is missing in this book and for those hoping that Farrow would be receiving a dedicated melee unit, well you’re going to have to keep waiting.
Positives include the usual: detailed model descriptions, fantastic Privateer Press art, and of course more storyline to read. One of the aspects of the game that really draws me in is that this is a wargame with strong character elements and I tend to find standout characters in different armies that get me hooked. Now, whether or not Minion characters draw you in is purely a matter of personal taste but I will say that I do enjoy Bloody Barnabus and will be making an army centered around him. As for the models themselves, Privateer Press did an outstanding job in the design. The models really support the themes that the various Minion pacts are trying to convey, even models that seem “out of place” still find a connection to their pacts, but I will get into this more later.
Thornfall Alliance: 6/10: - Passable
As I discuss the Thornfall Alliance, keep in mind that these are just initial impressions and this is not meant to dissuade you from playing them. Indeed, I think the models are great and can put together a solid force. Furthermore, I don’t see Minions players as those who are trying to construct a list that can play in harsh competitive environments. I see Minions players as individuals that already play an established army and want a side army to bring out every now and then. With that mentality in mind, can see a lot of fun to be had in Thornfall. The reason why I scored the army at a 6/10 is because they lack a major component in a solid melee unit. Your only option is to turn to Farrow Brigands which are more of a jack-of-all-trades unit at best. They're sporting only a P+S 10 club and wield a gun backed up by a meager RAT 5. Brigands are a great unit but they are designed to be adaptable and once they hit melee they tend to die quickly. It hurts that a farrow melee unit was not in the book; if Thornfall could just get their hands on one they would be in great shape.
We’ll start talking Farrow warlocks with Lord Carver, as he was released several months ahead of the Minions book. People wanting to get their feet wet with minions quickly picked up Carver, who is a solid fighter and is meant to be upfront with his army. DEF 15 ARM 17 means that it will take some effort to put Carver down but does not mean he is invincible. His spells are a mix of beast buffing, with Mobility and Batten Down the Hatches, and a great debuff in Quagmire, with Rift thrown in to give him a nuke. Carver would like some beasts to make use of his buffs and Farrow troops as a first-assault measure. His feat, on paper, is great. Hog Heaven grants faction models overtake and an additional damage die. Where his feat suffers is that his model don’t support it well. Brigands will not be dishing out significant damage at P+S 10, so the Warhog is going to be the optimal supporter of this feat. The Warhog, under this feat and amped up with Aggression Dial, is a massive threat... but, the poor Warhog doesn’t have reach. Unless your opponent has a lot of small-based models bunched up, don’t count on a lot of overtaking to happen. Still, Carver is a great model and and a great warlock.
In my opinion, if you want to take Farrow to the next level, then you may want to take a look at Dr. Arkadius. The Doctor is a support/beast caster armed with a great selection of spells including the dreaded Crippling Grasp (sorry Cryx, the monopoly is over!). Stat-wise you will need to protect Arkadius; aside from an above-average defense he is very fragile. Consider going beast-heavy up with this guy to take advantage of Primal Shock, have some Bone Grinders for the extra spell range on Crippling Grasp, and make sure to cast Forced Evolution on one of your Hogs. Unlike Cryx and their ample supply of arc nodes, don’t over-extend yourself to try and hit someone with Crippling Grasp, however. Wait for an opportune target to get to you and then hit them with the spell. The final spell Arkadius has is Psycho Surgery which heals all models in your battlegroup and in your control area for D3+1 points of damage at a cost of 2 FURY. If you needed to heal yourself or a beast for 2 points of damage, cast this spell instead because all of Arkadius’s beasts, as well as himself, will heal for AT LEAST 2 and 4 at best. The drawback is that you can only cast it once per turn. Aside from spells, Arkadius does have Maltreatment for that extra dash of FURY you may need, and his melee weapon, the Combat Syringe comes with three different effects to screw with your opponent. Once again, don’t think this means that Arkadius should be mixing it up in battle, instead look at the Syringe as an additional way to punish your opponent for closing in.
I would like to remind everyone that these are initial impressions and not meant to dissuade you from playing minions, Thornfall, or Lord Carver. The fact is though; I think Dr. Arkadius does a better job of utilizing the Thornfall armory than Carver does. His feat pays off double because you can fully push all of your beasts and then use Arkadius' feat to frenzy them and adjust the FURY to where you need it. It’s FURY management, bonus movement, and extra pain to your opponent.
Blindwater Congregation: 8/10 Great
The Blindwater Congregation represents the gator side of Minions and different style of play from the Farrow. The Blindwater Congregation does not provide as much variety as the Farrow do in the sense of different troop styles, instead expect to get a lot of melee troops that bring hurt at close range. Your first warlock option is Bloody Barnabus, who’s got the ability to bring his army in close while denying your opponent the ability to shoot them on the way in. In melee, Barnabus is a beast with above-average MAT and Unyielding to give him a mighty ARM 19. While he can throw Iron Flesh on a beast or a Gatormen posse, he can also use it on himself to bring his DEF up to a respectable 16. Barnabus’ beast spell is a good one – Warpath. Anytime you have the ability to speed up your beasts you should take full advantage of it. The Bullsnapper is SPD 6 and the Blackhide Wrastler is 5 but the Ironhide Spitter is a 4. Spitters need to be in good positions to use their ranged attack and Warpath can assist with this. To top off everything, Barnabus has a great feat called Black Tide. Black Tide is just like Kreoss’ feat (everybody in CTRL range is knocked down), except that amphibious models are immune and Barnabus' CTRL is smaller. Unless you’re in a group with a lot of Talion Charter players, not much will be standing after you use this feat. Unlike Kreoss however, pop and drop is not something that can easily be pulled off. Croak Hunters and Spitters can use this to kill models but you simply do not have the firepower to put down a warlock/warcaster that has been dropped unless you intend to run a lot of Spitters. Instead, you can aim to get a good alpha strike and neuter your opponent’s defenses by dropping everyone. In the end, it’s still a great feat as it is very dependable, and it will probably let Barnabus win plenty of games.
The next warlock at your disposal is Calaban the Grave Walker. Calaban is half buff and half debuff for the most part. Occultation and Carnivore are solid buffs along with Hex Blast and Parasite to hurt your opponent. His last spell, Boneshaker, is a nuke that allows you to take control of your opponent’s model before it dies. The great ability of Calaban, however, is that his ranged attack, Heart Stopper, turns an opponent’s warrior model into a one-turn arc node for you. Top this off with a great feat that allows you to cast spells (and boost them!) out of turn, and you've got a beast of a warlock.
Both warlocks for Blindwater are solid and offer a variety of different abilities to your army. What it comes down to is what style you prefer... or just collect an entire Blindwater army if you’d like; there aren't that many models! Personally, I will be starting with Bloody Barnabus, he just looks too fun to pass up! On the whole, the Blindwater abilities are supported well by their troops and provide a lot of flexibility to really create an army that you find aesthetically pleasing and strong.
It’s a shame that there were no surprises to be had in the book; I was really hoping there would be some new solos or a 3rd warlock for each pact that hadn’t been revealed. Thornfall could have really used some kind of dedicated melee unit which didn’t happen. All 4 warlocks are really great, and as the pacts get expanded I’m sure new models will come out to take further advantage of their abilities. The book itself is a solid buy; honestly if you’ve come this far you might as well complete your collection of the faction books. Personally, I wanted to single source for all the models o I could get my point scheme down for my Barnabus list (and I'm also a completionist!). If you have a more pressing need for $30, you can hold off on getting this book. If, on the other hand, you are a fan of Minions, like good art and story, or just hate to see your collection incomplete then pick the book up. Despite the lack of anything new I’m glad that I bought the book, but I wouldn't disparage anyone for waiting, or skipping it entirely.
Minions had high expectations; do you think the book is worth it? Will you be playing Farrow or Gators? Did the book make you decide one way or the other? Let's hear it!