Twilight Kin – First Impressions Count

Twilight Kin are an army that I have always liked the look of, simply because they’re just plain cool. But I was a little put off in version 2 because I didn’t want to build an army that was likely to be completely redesigned in version 3, so I never got round to actually playing any games with them.

By the time V3 finally rolled around, I’d forgotten all about Twilight Kin because I was enticed by the shiny new Order of the Green Lady. However, after playing my round two game of a Call to Arms against Kyle ‘Master Crafted’ Przenenski and his really nice Twilight Kin list, I was reminded of just how cool the army is and decided to have a go at making a list myself.

I’m now seven games in with Twilight Kin (thanks to Universal Battle, I can basically play a game whenever I like at the moment) with 5 wins and 2 loses, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share my initial impressions on Twilight Kin.

This is where I’m currently at with my Twilight Kin list. I’ve tweaked it slightly in each game and each time I’ve slowly ramped up the investment in Drain Life – so far its been worth it every time. The downside with taking three Summoner Crones and investing all those points into Drain Life, is that it basically means that the bulk of my army has to be made up of Cronebound units. Otherwise, I just wouldn’t be getting the value out of all the special rules the Summoner Crone pays for in her rules – more on that later.

The Good

Pick n’ Mix Unit Combinations

Twilight Kin have access to some of the most solid units in the game in a combination that isn’t available anywhere else (without relying on allies). Butcher, Fiends, Abyssal Horsemen, Gargoyles, Mindscreeches and Silverbreeze are all excellent choices in their parent army and the ability to take them mixed together in one list is a real strength of the Twilight Kin.

Dark Magic

One excellent unit unique to Twilight Kin is the Summoner Crone. Drain Life is an incredibly powerful spell and in my opinion no Twilight Kin general should leave home without at least one source of it – preferably more. Due to their high average unit cost, Twilight King armies are almost always going to be outnumbered. Drain Life is an incredible force multiplier as it lets you keep your precious few units alive for longer, whilst also damaging your opponent.

Check out my battle report against Steve’s Goblins to see Drain Life in action. It tipped the odds of half a dozen combats in my favour, letting me break units in one round of combat so that I didn’t need to endure the counter charge. The unit of Abyssal Horsemen that won me the game took almost 20 points of damage over the course of game, but thanks to Drain Life and Regeneration they ended the game without a scratch on them.

The Crone comes with built in Inspiring and the ability to throw her Drain Life heals 18″ which is massive. This does only applies to Cronebound units though – see the section on ‘List design funneling’ below.

Add in to that the fact that she’s Stealthy and has a really solid 11/13 nerve and you have an all round excellent unit.

Compared to similar spellcasters, I would say she is a little under costed. However, as Cronebound Nightstalker units lose the Mindthrist special rule for only a pitiful 5 point discount, I see any undercosting in the Crone as recompense for the greater discount Twilight Kin should receive for losing Mindthirst.

The Bad

Unlocks, unlocks and unlocks

It is seriously hard to get unlocks in this list – at least if you want to build a list that is at least semi-competitive.

More than any other army in Kings of War, Twilight Kin feel like they’re paying an ‘unlock tax’ being forced to take subpar units in order to unlock the ones that actually do some work. I would say that this amounts to at least 300 points you’re having to pump into suboptimal unit choices. If you happen to come up against an army that has an abundance of excellent unlock choice (Undead for example) and hasn’t had to pay the ‘unlock tax’ then you’re effectively starting the game ~300 points worse off than your opponent.

And to make matters worse, the units that can unlock are pretty much all regiments so are only providing one unlock slot each.

AND they’re all so bloody expensive, so each regiment you add in to provide some unlocks takes up a significant proportion of your overall list.

To give a comparison from another army, I know that in V3 Orcs were given the Young Ax regiments because there was a concern that their cheapest unit available to provide unlocks was a standard Ax regiment at 130 points.

The cheapest unlock that Twilight Kin have access to that can actually contribute to combat is 140 points.

This means that Twilight Kin players have to decide – use Kindred Archers as your unlocks but accept that you’re going to have to ‘dilute’ your pure combat army and resign yourself to the fact that ~10% of your list is going to have to sit back and stay out of the way all game. Or, invest heavily in Kindred Archers and go for a gunline. Or, use Kindred Tallspears as your unlocks and accept that you have the most expensive unlocks in the game (10 points more expensive than the Orcs, that were deemed so expensive they had to introduce a whole new unit to fix the problem!).

There are a few armies that struggle with unlocks in the game at the moment, (Ratkin Slaves is the other big one that springs to mind) but none have it quite so bad as the Twilight Kin. The problem is so bad at the moment that it almost completely invalidates the first good point about the army – their pick n’ mix nature. Twilight Kin have solid options in every unlock slot; heroes, monsters and war engines. But there is little chance to bring any of that to the table without hamstringing yourself elsewhere.

All these restrictions and lack of viable unlocks options inevitably leads to…

List Design Funnelling

When your unlocks are limited to the extent that Twilight Kin’s are, then the inevitable result is list design funnelling.

Put simply, this is where a player is forced to take a list in a very particular direction. It doesn’t mean its the only possible direction you can go, but if you want to build at least a semi-competitive list than its the direction you’re forced in to.

A really good example of list funnelling appeared in Trident Realms at the end of V2. 90% of lists you saw were some variation of-

  • Fury of the Sea formation
  • 2x either Depth Horrors or Gigas
  • Eckter and the Siren
  • 2 x Knuckers

There was lots of adjustments within that basic formula, but the core look of the army was exactly the same every time. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t other Trident Realm builds available, but they were just no where near as good.

Twilight Kin feel like they’re in a similar spot at the moment.

The list building conversation I have with myself-

“The Summoner Crone is an excellent unit and one of the few units unique to Twilight Kin. Plus her Drain Life it pretty much essential for keeping valuable units alive. Ok, I’ll take two and put upgrades on them make sure that they can make the use out of their Drain Life. But I’m paying all those extra points for special rules that only effect Cronebound units – I better take Cronebound Abyssal Horsemen regiments as the unlocks for the Crones, that way I can make the most of her special rules.

Ok, I need some more heavy hitter to make up the centre of my battle line. I could take some Elf units, but if I did I would need to spend points on another source of Inspiring, because the Crones only effect Cronebound units… guess I’ll take Cronebound Butchers instead seeing as they’re just as killy as Impalers, more durable than Kindred Tallspears and benefit from all the great special rules of the Summoner Crones.

Oh and a couple of troops of Croneboun Gargoyles for chaff…”

So that’s… 1420 points spent with not a single unlock slot remaining.

And I get to this point every single time I try and write a Twilight Kin list – 65% of my list looks pretty much identical and then its fill in the blanks around it. I have a solid core of four combat units, 2 support casters and some chaff. In any other army this would be the point where I start looking at some monsters, or war engines – other pieces to play around the core of my army.

But I can’t do that, because I have no fecking unlocks!

You might argue that its just me and that I have no imagination in list building or that I’m too focused on building a certain style or list – you might be right. But what really brought home to me just how funnelled an effective Twilight Kin list is, was a conversation we had on the Northen Kings’ group chat.

I mentioned to the guys that I’d really enjoyed my game against Kyle and that I was going to build a Twilight Kin list to try out on Universal Battle. I went away to EasyArmy and started list building, eventually coming up with the list I took against Mark’s Ratkin Slaves.

Turns out my fellow Northern Kings had also gone to EasyArmy to try their own hand at building a Twilight Kin list. By pure coincidence we all shared the lists we’d come up with in the group chat within seconds of each other. And they were… pretty much identical. Three lists, built completely independently by three players with wildly different playstyles – more than 90% of the elements were identical across all three lists.

The Elves (well… some of them)

Impalers are fine I guess. They’re Palace Guard by another name, and how often do you see Elf players taking Palace Guard regiments? They’re a decent enough unit that I might consider if I really get fed up with taking the Archers for unlocks, but Twilight Kin have other units that do combat better and at 170 points they’re an expensive way of getting unlocks into your list.

If they could be taken in a horde, now that would be a different matter.

Blade Dancers are a very poor unit in my opinion. They’re just simply no where near as good as Nightstalker Reapers or Orc Morax (I just went to check EasyArmy to look at Blade Dancers and Morax side by side. I’d assumed they were a similar price and I still thought Morax were better. But no – Morax are 30 points cheaper!).

I can see a use for troops, but yet again you fall into issues with unlocks. Every time I’ve thought about adding Blade Dancers into my list, I take one look at Fiends and change my mind. Fiends fill the exact same role in the list (lots of attacks, good at chewing through high nerve, low defense and good speed) but they’re just better at it… and they can be healed from 18″ away by the Summoner Crone.

Summary

I’ve really enjoyed my games with Twilight Kin, and they’re definitely an army that can win games. I’ve won 5/7 games with them so far, and the games I lost were down to player skill (or lack of!) not because of the list.

I’m going to keep on with them and try and bring in more Elf elements into the list. The shame is that I think this will make the list worse not better.

Twilight Kin are definitely a cool army, but at the moment they feel like a fairly one dimensional army.

What Would Make It Better?

I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in playtesting for the last few Clash of Kings books and the 3rd edition rule book (I even have my name in the credits of the rulebook – how cool is that!). One of things I’ve learnt from playtesting and putting suggestions forward for ways to improve armies is that small changes tend to have big impacts and that often a small nudge here and there can make a massive impact on how an army plays.

So, with that in mind I have put together a few suggestions for how I think Twilight Kin can be pulled right up into the mix as a competitive army, and far more importantly open up a much greater variety of feasible builds.

Regiments are fine, horde are incredible

Goodie two shoes Elves get Palace Guard hordes, hippie Elves get Forest Guard hordes, so why don’t the bad boys of Pannithor get Impaler hordes?

Giving Impalers a horde option would have a massive impact on the range of lists that Twilight Kin could build. No only would it give them an actual powerful Elf option that can’t be found elsewhere in the Cronebound sections of the list, it most importantly gives them an infantry horde worth of unlocks that doesn’t feel like an ‘unlock tax’.

This one change alone would have a huge positive impact on the variety of lists that Twilight Kin could build.

A cheap unlock, a cheap unlock. My kingdom for a cheap unlock!

Lets give the Twilight Kin the Orc treatment and give them a brand new unit that is cheap and cheerful and can be used to provide unlocks.

Call them something like Twilight Initiates and a stat line like this-

These would be a really interesting addition to the game. They’d be something unique to Twilight Kin, and no other ‘Shieldwall’ equivalent unit in the game comes with built in Elite. And again, a unit like this would unlock so much of the potential currently locked in the Twilight Kin list.

Also Mantic, you know how you added in Shield Watch to the Elf list so that people would buy more hand weapon and shield Elf models? Well… Twilight Initiates would be an excellent way of encouraging people to buy a horde of them *hint* *hint*

Black Magic Woman

As I’ve said , the Summoner Crone is an excellent unit for the Twilight Kin. But when you take her you’re forced to take your army down a very particular path – or accept that you’re paying for special rules that you’re not able to use.

I agree that there should never be a unit that can do everything all of the time, but it would be great if the Crone could be ‘upgraded’ to benefit either Elves OR Cronebound.

My suggestion would be to add the following:

“The Summoner Crone may choose to replace the Wicked Miasma special rule with Aura: Stealthy (Elf only)”

Boom – she’s instantly a fantastic support piece for the Elf element of your list, but doesn’t push your Cronebound units over the top at the same time. Plus a stealthy aura would be very in keeping with the Twilight Kin’s background lore.

I’d still say to keep her Inspiring limited to Cronebound only – I think spell casters that Inspire entire armies should be kept to a minimum.

This last one if probably the most wishlisty of my three suggestions but I still feel that it would be a subtle enough change to boost certain elements of the list without going over board.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

So here’s my promise to the Rules Committee, Matt Gilbert, Kyle Przenenski and the other guys at Mantic – make the changes above in the Clash of Kings 2021 book and I promise to buy, build and paint and entirely 100% Mantic Twilight Kin army and bring it to Clash of Kings 2021 – spindly Elves and all!

C’mon guys, Twilight Kin are so close to being awesome, lets unlock their potential!

What do you think? Have I been overly critical on the Twilight Kin or am I being over optimistic about them?

And do you think my suggested changes would make them a more rounded army?



7 thoughts on “Twilight Kin – First Impressions Count”

  1. Honestly I think you are mostly right
    I think you’re very wrong on trident realm I was the only unbeaten U.K. trident realm list and didn’t take fury of the sea.
    However back to twilight kin,
    I think it’s a horribly lame theme trapped into one build
    I think not taking stealth abyssal cav through one of the casters is a bad error but the list concept works.
    Sylvan kin are a gimmick list(vanguard treehwrder spam)
    Twilight kin are a gimmick drain life list
    I think both themes were terribly written with dreadful balance internally and externally, little to no consideration for fluff, theme or purpose. I played these at events recently I think it’s very hard to consistently win games with them I think your board control is virtually zero.
    As for initiates just make elf spears and seaguard correctly pointed and work respectively. Make them both unlock and then role on looking to make elves feel like elves, hitting on 5s with bows and palace guard regiments etc being just ok and so on as you stated is not what an elite list should be imho.
    3rd edition as a rule set is pretty good but the armies themselves feel rushed imbalanced and I don’t feel the fit the fluff well for the most part and definitely worse than 2nd ed which is sad

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  2. Brilliant article!! Many thanks! I’ve built a TK list for third and can’t make it work. I’m a new player, so that doesn’t help but I want to actually take naughty elves and if they make the changes you suggest I will also be building new Mantic models

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    1. I’ve started to include more Elves into my lists, mainly because I think they’re cool.

      I’m hopefully that they will get some love in the next Clash of Kings book. The Rules Committee see aware of the problems around TK unlocks and I’m sure they’ll do something to help fix them.

      Like

      1. Thanks so much for the reply. To be honest, we may moan (and you make really good points, that I feel for myself) but I come from GW games and quite how balanced and fair KOW is still shocks me. I do think the TK list doesn’t quite give me what I want right now, but to be fair.. they tried to do something interesting with the list rather than just “elves but naughtier”. I would love to run a horde of impalers, run some blade dancers around with my Hydra model but I still have to say I love KOW as it is.

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