Part Fourteen – Syntarch
Center-stage is a series of articles spotlighting a particular model or unit in Godslayer. In this article we will look at the seriously intimidating warlord of the Beastspawn sub-faction – The Gorelord. This guy can be terrifying in melee, and also possesses a few tricks also for buffing his warband.
On the battlefields of four continents, the enemies of the Halodynes have come to respect the deadliness of the leaders called Syntarchs. In antiquity they were the heroes who accepted ritual challenges issued to a phalanx but over time they developed into champions who operate autonomously, prowling the battlefield like a rogue predator.
The Syntarch’s career begins at age fourteen as a Citizen Hoplite and continues as a member of the professional warrior class of Halodyne society – the Symachoi. As an Acolyte he is apprenticed for 5 years by a Promachos who trains him in all the aspects of fighting, warfare, chariotry, sailing, and wilderness survival, and educates him in poetry, singing, civic duties and social etiquette to make a well-rounded upstanding citizen. After achieving Promachos himself and gaining a place in the front rank of a city’s elite Sacred Band, the candidate may qualify for additional training as a Syntarch to fight with the double Kopis, and earn thereby the right to fight independent of the phalanx.
Wartime is the Syntarch’s time. Then he shines, supporting the citizen hoplite militia, raising their morale and inspiring them with his valor and martial skill. The Syntarch also has a disciplinary role – dispensing instant battlefield justice. Such punishments may include lashing, ear-clipping or even death by stoning for desertion and treason.
During peace-time, Syntarchs command patrols, train hoplite militias and devote themselves to meditation of the Thesmos and improving their martial skills. Syntarchs commonly leave their state for some years because exposure to adversity and the unknown helps them to master the Thesmos.
The Syntarch is an infantry character model of the City-States sub-faction, with a deployment limit of 2 per warband. The syntarch costs 30 points and is a mounted on a small base, so has SV1. As a regular infantry he can move up to 4 times per round.
Let’s start with a look at their profile.
MOV 3 – Normal
MEL 7 – Experienced heroic warrior level
MIS 4 – Inexperienced with missile attacks.
MAG 3 – Okay defensive/passive level
DEF 14 – above average
ARM 7 – Average
LEAD 9 – Very good
ACT 5 – Standard for a character
Life-points – 12 – Good, even for a character.
The Syntarch is armed with two Kopis swords and has 2 attack options. He can either make a POW4 attack for 2 ACT or make two POW3 attacks for 3 ACT.
Abilities and Tactics
Strong-Willed: the Syntarch may make one re-roll of any LEAD-based test. With his LEAD 9, and Fearless ability he is usually fine against Horror causing models, and this is against things like Reek, enemy tactics, and some other spells/effects that require a LEAD test.
Fearless – Syntarchs are hardened by years of combat and are inured to the horrors of war. Treats Horror as Fear and ignores Fear.
Vanguard Valor – The Syntarch motivates the units around him by personal example – often charging headlong into an enemy unit, inspiring comrades to follow him into the fray. When he charges, friendly units within LEAD range and LOS of the Syntarch that also charge the same model/unit pay 1 ACT less to do so. This is especially useful when the selected unit is assigned an extra ACT because they can then usually get in an extra attack.
Counterstrike – Such individuals train their speed and reflexes and are keenly aware of the battlefield situation unfolding around them, enabling them to counter-charge approaching enemies. Allows the Syntarch to charge a model that ends its charge movement within 6 inches of the Syntarch as a passive activation. The Syntarch also gains +1 Strike Rank, so usually fights first. This tactic is especially cool when combined with his ability Vanguard Valor.
Paean – The Syntarch leads his troops in singing the Paean – the war-hymn of the city-state. The warriors are stirred by pride, motivating them to greater skill and engendering better morale. The target friendly model unit gains Fearless and may re-roll missed initial attacks. Again this is really useful when combined with Vanguard Valor and Counterstrike, but it can also be useful to assign to a unit that is already engaged in melee.
Sun-Blind – Troops blind enemy shooters by reflecting sunlight into their eyes with their shields. Essentially this gives a unit/model equipped with shields +2 DEF vs. missile attacks.
A Detailed examination of the Counterstrike Rules Mechanic
There have been several questions about this tactic in the recent past and so here is a detailed examination of how exactly it works in relation to other rules.
Chargers have Strike Rank zero
For this example we will use a unit of Banebrood Skulleaters charging a Halodyne warband.
1. Skulleaters declare their charge.
2. Skulleaters make their charge movement. If at least one model ends its charge movement within 6″ of an unengaged Syntarch with the Counterstrike tactic active then Counterstrike is triggered. Move the charging Skulleaters one at a time – the Syntarch player can decide after every triggering movement if he wants to Counterstrike or not).
Triggering movement would also include if a Skulleater charged the Syntarch.
The Syntarch player must declare the target model that he wants to charge the moment it ends it’s (charge) movement. This is important because the Syntarch may become engaged, and therefore unable to charge.
For example if the first Skulleater would have charged a model next to the Syntarch and thereby engages the Syntarch as well as the charged model, the player must declare the counter-charge now against the engaging model. If he doesn’t, then the Syntarch is then engaged and no longer eligible to make charges, so Counterstrike was totally wasted.
We will assume here that the Syntarch was charged by a Skulleater, and the Halodyne player declared a Counterstrike charge against the charging Skulleater.
3. The Syntarch interrupts the Skulleaters action and can now choose his attack, pays the ACT and does his charge movement towards the triggering model. This follows the normal rules for charge movement, so if he leaves the melee range of any enemy model during this movement (e.g. he moves through a models melee reach) it can make a free strike against the Syntarch.
This is also an interrupting action and thus occurs as soon as he leaves the model’s melee range! So the free-strike would be made immediately before proceeding further.
4. The Syntarch makes his charge attack/s. The Syntarch attacks before the Skulleater because the Syntarch has +1 Strike Rank.
The enemy Skulleater is not permitted to make a counter-attack because it is still in the middle of another action (its charge attack). It must complete the charge attack before it can initiate a new action.
5. If the Syntarch kills the target model with his counterstrike attack, then:
A) the slain Skulleater is not allowed to make his charge attack (because the Syntarch was fighting first)
B) The Syntarch is now permitted to make a Slay Movement action (move him D3 inches and follow steps 3 and 4).
6. Now finish the charge movement of the remaining Skulleaters and make their charge attacks, including the Skulleater that charged the Syntarch.
7. The charged models may counter attack (normal order of charge occurs again)
8. If the Syntarch killed enough Skulleaters to force a bravery test during his counterstrike attacks, the Skulleaters still finish their charge (including enemy counter attacks) and then the Skulleaters make their test and flee if failed.
9. If the Syntarch is not engaged anymore after his attacks he can make another counterstrike with his remaining ACT (if any) later this round (even against the next model of the charging unit)
Enemy Fights Simultaneously
1. Now let’s look at an example where the Syntarch is charged by a unit with Strike Rank 1. Let’s assume two Haldoyne players are fighting it out, and the Syntarch is 6 inches from a unit of his warband’s hoplites.
2. The enemy Sons of War charge the Hoplites. The last Son of War’s movement ends 6 inches from the Syntarch.
3. The Syntarch’s Counterstrike is triggered and the Syntarch player declares a counter-charge against the Sons of War.
4. Because both Syntarch and Sons of War have SR1, their melee is simultaneous. The Syntarch attacks and wounds the Son of War, and the Son of War attacks and wounds the Hoplite that he charged. The Son of War is not allowed to direct his attack against Syntarch; his charge attack must be against the model he charged.
5. Because the Son of War is counter-charged by the Syntarch and still in the middle of an action (his charge attack), he is not permitted to make a counter-attack against the Syntarch.
6. The attacks of the other Sons of War also get done and count as simultaneous.
7. Hoplite casualties are removed.
8. Finally the surviving Hoplites may counter-attack the Sons of War.
Enemy Fights first
1. Now let’s say the Syntarch is charged by a model with Strike Rank 2.
2. Admittedly that’s not so likely currently, but future models will very likely qualify to achieve this.
3. In this case the enemy unit charges as usual.
4. The Counterstrike is triggered and the player declares a counterstrike charge.
5. The charging model has Strike Rank 2 so attacks first, and completes its charge action.
6. Assuming the Syntarch is still alive, the Syntarch declares an attack against the charging model.
7. The charging model may chose to counter-attack the Syntarch’s attack (this is now possible because it already completed the charge action). If he does so, the counter-attack is performed before the Syntarch’s attack.
8. Assuming the Syntarch is still alive, the Syntarch can finally attack the charging model.
Combining the Syntarch with other Models
• Hoplites – Using the Syntarch’s Vanguard Valor, the unit or model charged by the Syntarch can be charged by a friendly unit (of Hoplites for example), and the unit then pays 1 less ACT to do so. So assume you charge with Hoplites, they have 4 ACT normally, and the Warlord assigns them 1 ACT, giving them 5. Now the Hoplites are able to make 3 attacks in one turn!
• Hill Ogres – What applies to the Hoplites applies double so for the Hill Ogres. They can unleash a truly hellish charge with 2X Circular Slash attacks against all enemies in 2 inches.
• Demarchon – the Demarchon can buff the Syntarch and thereby make it more likely that the Syntarch will gain a Slay-Movement on its Counterstrike charge. However, it is usually more strategically value to spend the Demarchon’s ACT on buffing units or fighting himself. However, it is quite possible that after buffing the relevant units, the Demarchon is unengaged and has some spare ACT, so keep the Syntarch in mind for such cases. (Sudden Feat and Grace of Achallon).
• Priestess – useful spells to cast on the Syntarch would be Dance of Death, Warcry, Killing Machine, or Seraphic Shield, all of which boost his melee capabilities. Also nice is the spell Archon Aura, so he can act as the right hand of your warlord.
Strategies and uses of the Syntarch
Simple Offensive Strategy
The offensive strategy works well with units of 6-7 Hoplites or 4-5 Hill Ogres, and especially well when combined with a Syntarch and a Demarchon. If the warband has many small units and individual models then you will find it easier for bringing the Hoplites into position at the right time.
This strategy can be used for charging the enemy if you have models in range, alternatively it can be used to draw the enemy to you by placing the Syntarch in charge range of the enemy.
At the start of the round, activate the Demarchon and assign one ACT to the Syntarch. Order the Demarchon’s tactic Sudden Feat to the Hill Ogres, allowing them to use their Circular Slash tactic for free, and assign them one action token. After this, order the tactic Grace of Achallon to the Hill Ogres.
In the next turn, activate the Syntarch and use the ability Vanguard Valor. Charge him at the enemy you intend the Hill Ogres to charge. Ideally this should be the opponent’s most powerful unit.
Be sure to engage only one model of the enemy unit with your Syntarch. Use his 3-ACT ambidextrous attack to have the greatest possible chance of killing the target. With the charge bonus and two attacks he should be able to kill any average trooper and possibly even an elite unit model.
Assuming the Syntarch is successful, remember he benefits from Slay Movement, so he can now move 1D3 inches and engage the next unit model. At this time I would put him in melee range with two models of the enemy unit, because you want to be engaging the unit even after you kill the next enemy model. The Syntarch can now make his ambidextrous attack again for free (because of Slay movement) then he can also attack twice more with his remaining 3 ACT.
NOTE: When you charge the target unit with the Syntarch, try not to charge the closest models because if you kill these, the enemy unit may no longer have models in range for the Hoplites to charge.
If you were able to charge the enemy with the Syntarch, then all is well, and you can now activate the Hill Ogres and charge.
You will be rolling to hit with a charge bonus (MEL7), and the highest two of 3D6 attack dice. This means that most of your attacks will hit the enemy.
When you make a Thunderous charge, you don’t need to worry about remaining 1-2 inches away (to take advantage of your long weapons). This is because the enemy cannot counter attack! Due to Thunderous Charge the enemy model’s can’t make counter attacks when you charge them, so it is of more use to get as many enemies into melee range of every single ogre as possible!,
Because your Ogres charged the same unit that the Syntarch charged, they save 1 ACT for the first attack from his Vanguard Valor ability. You also have the 1 ACT assigned by the Demarchon, so your Ogres have an effective 7 ACT. Their attacks cost 3 ACT, and with their Circular Slash activated, they can attack a new enemy for free any time they hit with the prior attack. With Grace of Achallon and MEL 7, they will probably hit 3 or more enemies with each attack.
Because your Ogres have the Thunderous Charge ability, the enemy cannot counter-attack!! This is awesome, especially if you charged super-killer units like guthackers, Carnifexors, Einherjer etc.
Now you should move the Ogres once to position them so they have lots of targets in range, then make a second circular Slash attack.
The quantity of attacks and the high probability of hitting plus the POW of 8 will devastate any unit.
Let’s look at the same situation as above, but we will assume that the enemy is not in your charge reach.
You have the possibility to move all your units closer and pray you win the priority roll next round in a massive clash of multiple charges. Alternatively, you can draw the enemy to you on your terms.
If the enemy unit is out of charge range then place the Syntarch in their way and activate his Counterstrike tactic. Make sure he is not more than 8 inches ahead of your warband.
The enemy will most likely trigger your Syntarch when it tries to move closer. Or they may simply decide to take out the pesky Syntarch first. The Syntarch should hopefully kill 2 enemy models in his Counterstrike passive activation.
Most likely the enemy unit will have wiped out the Syntarch and then moved again to engage your warband. Don’t worry about it. Although you did not get your super-killer charge in, neither did the enemy, and now they are sitting in your melee range and have no ACT to counter attack. So you won a strategic victory, and now you can activate your Hill Ogres and do some serious heavy-duty brutality.
The Syntarch is an expensive sacrifice, however, if you prepare him with Counterstrike and one or two buffs, he can take a couple of enemies with him as he dies. Crucially, even if he dies, he still counts as charging and so still allows units to charge the enemy that charged him with Vanguard Valor. (assuming your would-be-chargers did not get engaged).
For this reason, the Syntarch is a great sacrifice model to stick out in front of your warband to encourage the opponent to get into your charge range.
NOTE: With this strategy, beware the enemy warlord “Leap-frog” move. The enemy warlord can charge your Syntarch, wipe him out and then make a slay movement 3 inches closer to your warband, then still have 2-3 ACT left over to engage your Hill Ogres and kill one. So if you plan to do this drawing the enemy forth strategy, be sure your Syntarch is not in the charge range of the enemy warlord or any serious Creature.
This is the best option if your opponent has a longer charge range than most of your warband.
An alternate possibility is to buff-up a unit of Hoplites and place them directly in the way of the enemy, together with the Demarchon. Place the Syntarch off to the side and slightly back, together with a unit of Sons of War or Hill Ogres.
The Syntarch triggers BEFORE the Hoplites and the Demarchon, weakening the enemy’s impact by killing some models before they can attack.
The Demarchon and Hoplites then absorb the shock of the enemy warband’s charge.
The sons of War or Hill Ogres then charge the unit the Syntarch charged.
This classic Halodyne strategy is described in detail in the Hoplites article.
When facing shooty warbands, the Halodynes have good options. Although Phalanx provides no defense against shooting attacks, you have the spell Arrow Protection and the tactic Sunblind of the Syntarch. Sunblind gives the target model/unit +2 DEF against shooting attacks, so for Hoplites, that means Hoplites have an effective DEF16.
Unfortunately this tactic only works for models equipped with shields, so in Wave-1, that means Hoplites. Wave-2 will have several more units with shields.
Be sure to keep your Syntarch close to the advancing units so he can remain within LEAD-range to order the Sunblind tactic.
Against scary warbands like Mortans undead, Banebrood and Troglodytes, you have the Syntarch’s tactic Paean. This turns average troops like Hoplites into monster fighters. Paean gives the target unit Fearless, which means they are immune to fear, but also only suffer Fear against Horror-causing enemies.
Keep your Demarchon within LEAD-range of the Hoplites as you advance against the enemy. The Demarchon increases the Hoplites LEAD to 9 with his ability Reverence, and the Hoplites subfaction ability allows them to re-roll failed Lead-based tests. So the Syntarch makes them fearless and most likely they will pass any tests against Horror-causing enemies or Reek-tests.
In addition to making the Hoplites fearless, the Paean tactic also allows them to reroll failed initial attacks.
For a city-state warband the fearless of paean is not so vital because they usuall pass their LEAD tests, but in other sub-factions it is worth gold!
With MEL7, DEF14, ARM7 and POW3/4, the Syntarch is a decent melee fighter.
When assigned an extra ACT, he can make 2 ambidextrous attacks each turn.
Even if you have an enemy in charge range, consider using Counterstrike tactic instead and allowing him to be charged. The reason for this is that when charging due to Counterstike, the Syntarch fights at Strike Rank 1, so fights first instead of simultaneously. In most cases the enemy cannot make a simultaneous attack, and may be killed before they get their chance.
Several scenarios require characters to fulfill scenario objectives. The Syntarch is a very capable model to have on the team for this purpose for. He has good melee capability so can take care of himself out on a flank.
If you cast the Archon Aura spell on the Syntarch, this allows him to assign action tokens to units and models just like a warlord. This also increases his LEAD range by 1D6 inches up to a possible 14 inches LEAD-range.
If your Warlord is not around to buff units, the Syntarch can use Paean to make them more effective in melee.
In this way you essentially create a second warlord for the warband. Be sure to keep the spell sustained each turn.
Although he can assign action tokens, models/units may not receive assigned action tokens twice, so it is not possible to buff units with an ACT from the Syntarch and an ACT from the Demarchon. Nevertheless, it is still helpful because you can then use the Demarchon as a melee warlord while your Syntarch buffs the units, or use one on either flank so that you can cover all units.
• Never underestimate the deterrent capabilities of the Syntarch with Counterstrike active and some remaining ACT. His mere presence can disrupt the enemy’s plan.
• He dies pretty fast when on his own, so be sure to support him or choose your targets wisely
The basic concept of the Syntarch was to create a buffer-melee character for the city-states that would go in the starterbox and complement the Hoplites and Demarchon. We envisioned him as a military figure rather than a questing heroic kind of guy, and this helped us develop the background for the training and city-state military systems of the Halodynes as well as the Thesmos code of honor, sort of like a Greek-style Bushido or chivalric code. Sun-blind was an idea which came from mythology, and Paean is a traditional Ancient Greek battle song. Vanguard Valor and counterstrike were nice rules created by Andre which made the Syntarch a pretty powerful character in terms of strategic benefit. The concept and stats varied very little over the course of play-testing and he has proved a favorite of Halodyne players.
The Syntarch is both a strategic character (due to his Vanguard Valor and Counterstrike), and a buffer (Paean and Sunblind) as well as also being a decent melee character. He’s no melee super-killer and not a strategic game-winner, but what he does have is a really great combination of useful talents – a true all-rounder.