The Black Orifice

Tabletop gaming resources and events from grumpy old games designers, Ben Redmond and Nigel McClelland

The Fillet Stake - getting the most out of the new butchers captain

So, with the card for the new Butcher's captain, Fillet, having been spoiled, people up and down the country have been trying her out, and as a die-hard Butchers player, I have been no different. I thought I'd write up a blog post about what I've found out about her from the small number of games I've played, and some reflective theory crafting as a result.

SWOT Analysis

I thought I'd do a simple start with a few basic thoughts on her strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities she presents, and the problems and difficulties she might encounter.

Strengths Weaknesses
Looking at her card at a glance, the main strengths that stand out are her speed and TAC. With 7/9 MOV, combined with a potential Smell Blood and Quick Foot, she can charge 13 inches across the pitch, and with TAC 8 (and only 7 columns in her playbook) she can pile on the hits. Her playbook is decent if not earthshattering, and should mean that she can reliably do 12+ damage a turn if fully stacked with influence. Adding on a 3/6 kick and she's got a goal threat range in line with most strikers in the game, if not quite Mist or Flint level of goodness. Overall, even if she's not set up for an ideal fight, she's got a decent chance of scoring VPs every turn. With a DEF of 5+ and 16 health boxes she's a pretty tough captain to take down, too. The most glaring weakness on her card is her 1-inch melee zone. She is going to be susceptible to being locked down by models with a 2-inch melee zone, and is particularly vulnerable to Don't Touch the Hair and Unpredictable Movement. At first glance her playbook can seem a lttle disappointing, lacking options beyond damage (although there are noteable reasons for this).
Opportunities Threats
The biggest opportunities for scoring come when she can go in against bleeding targets. Not only does her damage output increase significantly, but her Blood Dance turns her lacklustre playbook into a souped-up Shank, with a dodge on every damage causing hit and a double dodge on with 5 or more hits. She's not short of options for getting the bleed out there too, with Pain Circle AOE, Blood Rain combat pulse effect and access to 3 players with the Crucial Artery trait in her team (Boiler, Meathook and Rage). Her high DEF also makes her an excellent target for Defensive Stance, which will typically halve the number of hits you suffer. Against a bleeding opponent with a 1-inch melee zone her playbook's pretty nice for counter attacking, too, with easy dodges to get out of reach and all with some bonus damage on top. If you can get to 4 hits against such a target you can tackle them, deal 3 damage and dodge out of reach. The biggest danger to Fillet is 2-inch melee zone combat monsters, like Tapper. These models can grind her down and there's nothing she can do about it. Models with easy access to dodges when counter attacking can be a problem, too. Making sure you go into base contact if they counter attack is critical, forcing them to need a 2-inch dodge to get out of danger. When playing her you also need to be wary about going up against high DEF/ARM models that are not yet bleeding. Blood Rain gives her the ability to get the bleed down on her desired target at least (and usually a few others beside) but if she can't get it off she can struggle to get the hits in. For example, the first thing I ever tried with her was to charge her into an unhurt Friday within Defence Support range of Spigot. I failed to pop the Blood Rain on the charge in, and then was stuck dealing 1 non-momentous DMG per hit thereafter.

Tricks of her trade

In this section I'll go through some of the tricks I've discovered from using her - some used in game to good effect, others theory-crafted when reflecting on games played...

Pain Circle

Pain Circle can strike you as a critically important ability to use. Well worth chucking out at the start of her activation on her intended target to ensure you've got the bleed up to begin with. However, I think this isn't always its best use. If you reliably hit someone with Pain Circle, you can probably equally reliably get off a Blood Rain on an attack or charge instead, netting you an extra damage, and probably more extra targets with bleed (given the combined effect of not needing to roll separately for each model, and the increased size of a 3-inch pulse). It's 8-inch range also limits it's use

I would rather save Pain Circle to use as a consolation effect for when a model can dodge out of your melee zone and leave you without influence left. Another trick I've found is to drop it at her feet in the direction of an on-coming charge, forcing the enemy to gain bleed by the time they have engaged you. At the very least this sets you up for the next turn, but against a 1-inch melee zone target, it also sets you up nicely for counter attacking.

Blood Rain

This is, IMO, the most important of her suite of abilties. On a charge with no other modifiers you should hit 4 hits against any other model without any defensive buff. You'd struggle against DEF 6 or DEF 5 ARM 1, but against pretty much any other common DEF/ARM combo, 4 hits is at least the "average" result. Having this in your arsenal means that you don't need to go in against someone already bleeding, meaning that you're not signposting your target by pre-hitting someone with Boiler or Meathook. Another thing I didn't realise when I first played with her is that this play is target P, so the pulse is centred on the target model, not on Fillet herself. This can potentially catch people out, but can also give you dodge lanes around your target, avoiding crowding out penalties, if they ensure they're outside of the 3-inch pulse. It's also a good argument for having someone with pushes in their playbook in your team, to knock those enemy models close together and bunch them up for a blood rain.

Quick Foot

This is her one support ability. To quote The Kick Off, she's got a support ability, so she gets a 2, but that's about it. Granted this is not something I would often see myself using in a circumstance other than "I need an extra 2 inches of movement on Fillet", but there are some (okay, it's one) interesting trick you can pull off with it. Rage and Boar are potentially brutally damaging players with a limited threat range. Adding a couple of inches to their range more than pays you back the 2 influence you spent to achieve it. If it means them being able to charge a target or not, it effectively nets you 4 influence (2 for the free charge and 2 for the free attacks you'll generate that you couldn't otherwise).

Haemophilia and Exsanguinate

These two are also worth thinking about how to get the best use out of them, and how they work in tandem with each other. Firstly, Haemophilia means that you want to try and keep players within your 6-inch bubble and to stop them from removing the Bleed condition. The best way of doing both of these is to ensure you activate her last. This denies your opponent the opportunity to remove the condition or to move out of your bubble before the end of the turn. It's also worth considering with Exsanginate when the player will likely be taken out. If they die in the Maintenance Phase you won't get the momentum for them and they'll get to come back on straight away. In some cases this can be a big advantage to your opponent, giving them a crucial repositioning opportunity. I would save considering its use until the end of her activation, then have a look at what damage your target(s) are on. If someone's about to drop in the activation phase, you might as well pop the LP then so that you get the momentum, but the ideal sitiation is that the damage caused in the maintenance phase drops them to 3 or less HP, that way you can activate first and pop your LP straight off the bat to finish someone off before you've even spent any influence. But that said, I would always be looking to use exsanguinate in a position where it's going to hit 3 or more players at once. A good player might not give you this opportunity, but if it's there it's probably worth taking. This way you not only earn the MP for the kill(s) but also give you a massive activation advantage for the rest of the turn.

Fill(et)ing in the Team Sheet

The thing I find most difficult to know about Fillet, is who should be on the team with her. With Ox it was pretty easy - who are the best players at dealing damage, and then possibly throw in Brisket as a goal threat. Here's some thoughts on how to build a team for her

Influence Management

The biggest problem with Fillet is that she wants to keep all her 4 INF and then east up two more on top. This is an unusual position for butchers players, who are used to Ox, who is usually better giving at least half his influence to Boiler or Shank. Therefore you need to have a careful think about who you are going to take. Models that can survive on less influence than they bring are critically important. Tenderiser, Averisse and Greed and Princess are the obvious options here, but butchers are otherwise short of these "battery" players. Usual stalwarts, like Shank, Brisket and Boiler, will find themselves struggling to get the influence they need to be a threat. Boiler and Meathook are arguably usable with a single influence point, passing out marked target or tooled up, but boiler has the added penalty that he forces you to bring the dog into play, which puts that particular influence battery in danger. Influence netural models, like Rage, Minx and Boar are also worth considering as they cut down on the number of batteries you need. Another option to consider is that with 1 INF Brisket could jog into a position and put up Super Shot and then wait for a snapshot opprotunity

Activation Management

Having the ability to activate Fillet last is particularly useful, for reasons as mentioned above. This can make conceding the kick off an option to ensure you get the last activation, but also makes Averisse and Greede a serious consideration. Further having players that you can perform dummy activations with is also useful. Tenderiser and Princess without Boiler, or Boiler or Meathook if you're only using them for their 1 INF support ability, forcing your opponent to move something important before you make your important moves.

Supporting the Captain

Given that you're going to be giving Fillet 6 influence every turn, making the most of that influence is critical. Abilities that will allow here to do her work are well worth considering and using more than you might under an Ox-led butchers team. To start with, players that can cause bleed are useful. Perhaps not as useful as you might otherwise think, given my points on Blood Rain above, but still an option worth having. Beyond that, Marked Target, Swift Stance, Thousand Cuts, Tooled Up and Singled out are the obvious plays that spring to mind, but don't forget Dirty Knives also has a DEF penalty, and just having the ability to push others around (ideally momentously) can also play for her benefit. Having a range of options is probably also worth considering, so that she can gain what she needs and when, possibly having options for playing against different teams.

Picking the Team

So we come to the final selection...

  • Fillet goes on, obviously,
  • So does Princess (as at the time of writing this there's no other option)
  • I think the most obvious next choice is Averisse and Greede. They are the only player that hits all three areas I've looked at. Excellent for activation management, and Averisse can quite happily exist with one influence, popping up with a momentous push or singled out when needed.
  • At this stage I have made up the influence that I need for Fillet, as she will steal one from Princess and one from Greede every turn, so now I need to think about how I can best make use of the final three player slots. Ideally I want one influence battery, one influence-neutral player and one greedy player.

  • When looking at influence neutral players, I think Rage brings more to the team than the others, bringing Tooled Up and Crucial Artery in addition. He's also really good as an Unpredictable Movement baiter, it's a nervous player who accepts a charge from Rage in the hope of avoiding a charge from Fillet later.
  • For the hungry player I find it difficult to look past Shank. Movement is so important in this game, and potentially even more important to a Fillet-led butchers team than many others, and it's what Shank does best. The other players to consider in this role are Gutter and Decimate, but just think Shank brings so much more than either of these. With decimate it's pretty obvious as they do very similar things, but Shank just beats her on mobility and threat range. For Gutter, you have less need for a chain grab in a Fillet-led team than you do with Ox at the helm, so really all she's bringing is Scything Blow, and I don't think you're going to get that off as often with Fillet as you will with Ox.
  • For the final Battery player in your main team I think you've got three viable options: Tenderiser, Brisket and Boiler. Tenderiser is perhaps the most natural battery, but as mentioned above, depending on how you play Brisket or Boiler, they can also have uses without being stakced up with a ton of INF tokens. All of them have different options and are potentially string against different teams. I might as well leave all three of them in there and swap them in depending on the opposition

So all of this gives me my final tournament team: Fillet, Princess, Averisse and Greede, Shank, Rage, Boiler, Brisket, Tenderiser. The first five are definites, but the sixthg slot will depend on who I'm facing.