The Arcane Ballista is an interesting conundrum. Offensively, it is powerful, but when you look at the combination of no melee attack, Slow Ranged Attack, and Spellcaster Crew, it can be incredibly easy to shut down. Why bother playing with a piece with such a major weakness? Sometimes a weakness can be turned into a strength. In the case of the Arcane Ballista, a creature everyone normally wants to run up to, what better companion than a creature everyone normally wants to run away from? Such is the basis of the 200-point warband, Come'n Get Me!
The Field of Ruin map is generally your best choice because the larger size (34x22 squares compared to 33x21) gives you a little more breathing room. While the terrain makes it easy to gain cover bonuses, it is difficult to block LOS. Broken Demongate and Drow Outpost also make good choices.
Placement of your Warforged Scout is the most important part of initial setup. Place him in a Victory Point (VP) area that requires your opponent to move creatures across the Arcane Ballista's field of fire. The Ballista should be positioned where it has a good field of fire with as many of the other supporting troops in the same start area as possible.
On the first round, cast magic weapon on the Arcane Ballista and Marut. The Ballista needs every bonus it can get to hit, and the Marut can use the magic damage. You may be tempted to use the Ballista's lightning sphere on the first round, but it is usually best to save it for later. The only exceptions to this are if you have a good chance of killing/routing important support creatures or can catch the majority of your opponent's warband with it.
Your initial tactic should be to keep your warband tightly together and block enemy movement to prevent opposing figures from basing the Ballista or killing the Couatl. Use the Warforged Scout's hide ability to keep it safe while you rack up VPs. Use the Couatl's snake's swiftness to gain additional attacks with the Ballista or to move the Ballista and attack with it in the same phase. Use Mialee's magic missile to clear cheap fodder out of the way so the Ballista can hit valuable targets. Use the Marut to block enemy ranged attacks. AC 25 (29 with cover) plus DR makes life difficult for enemy archers.
With the variety of maneuverable creatures in the game, it is unlikely you will be able to keep all this up for long.
Once the enemy breaks through, you need to remove enemies that base the Ballista before it can attack. Your primary tool for doing this is the Marut combined with snake's swiftness. If mobbed by a large number of opponents, use lightning sphere and mass inflict light wounds to clear them away. Because lightning sphere is a special ability rather than an attacke, it is the only means of damage the Ballista has when it is based or isn't adjacent to a spellcaster. This is why it is usually best to save this ability. While it is likely you will catch many of your own creatures in these effects, the Couatl's commander effect minimizes the damage from the lightning sphere, and the Ballista and Marut are both immune to mass inflict light wounds.
If your opponent is using three or more heavy hitters, it may be best to keep the Marut at least two squares away from the Ballista and use Melee Reach to clear enemies from the Ballista. This prevents your opponent from simultaneously ganging up on the Marut while shutting down the Ballista.
Important things to remember are:
Strengths:Come'n Get Me! is strongest against slow-moving warbands and those that rely on large creatures.
Weaknesses: Come'n Get Me! is weakest against warbands with a large number of ranged attacks and three or more fast, heavy hitters.
About the Author
Bill W. Baldwin lives on the Space Coast of Florida with his gaming family of a wife, two daughters, and assorted pets. He started playing D&D in 1974 and was a wargamer and miniatures gamer even before that. Bill has been published in Dragon Magazine and does freelance work for Wizards of the Coast.
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