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A review of the Artefacters faction of The Drowned Earth Miniatures Game.
The first in a series of blogs focusing on the playable factions within The Drowned Earth: today we’ll be analysing the Artefacters – who they are and what they can do on the table.
The Artefacters are the proverbial "good guys" within the world of Ulaya (or are they?!) and perhaps the most popular faction for newer players to purchase first. They are heavily inspired by the Indiana Jones aesthetics and if their philosophy and objectives were to be simplified – they would be the seekers of ancient treasure, re-discovering relics and technology from the past with the aim of putting them in museums. But of course there is much more to the Artefacters then that, and not all their treasures always end up in good hands! They have a great backstory narrative included in the main rulebook with some great artwork, so I don’t want to delve too deep into it here and spoil the fun!
The Artefacters are a faction that specialises on heightened agility; and I guess that is expected for a faction that is used to dodging rolling boulders, swinging over spike pits, or leaping from one ledge to another to avoid the Piranha infested waters below like Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider video games. Almost all of the Artefacters have an above average stat for their agility, giving them a distinct advantage over other factions when it comes to dynamic movement tests and dodging as a reaction. I can’t stress this enough DO NOT FORGET THAT DODGING IS A PERFECTLY LEGIT STRATEGY.
Although that doesn’t mean they are a slouch in a fight: Artefacters can also be a shooting threat. Whilst they are not as competent as Firm or Militia at the long-range game, they can hold their own. In a recent demo game at Poldercon 2022 – Nix managed to take down a rampaging Keratosor with a well-placed arrow - I won’t say where… if you know, you know. It is that kind of bravery (stupidity?) that defines the Artefacters and the players that use them: he who dares, wins… sometimes. And sometimes they die trying, but they look damn good doing it!
As a disclaimer – I am not a regular Artefacters player. I own them, I have played against them more than I play against any other factions, but their playstyle doesn’t match the way I like to play. So my opinion’s might be a little bit biased, I hope it’s a useful insight anyhow! I’m a bondsman at heart! You may be wondering then why I have chosen them as my first blog – quite simply popular demand. Artefacters are a super popular faction: so this post is for you, not me!
Starter Set Characters
Nix is the closest character in the Drowned Earth to Lara Croft – the Tomb Raider herself. Nix is perhaps my favourite leader choice in the whole game. She has a real lone wolf vibe, especially when mounted – and really lends herself well to the Artefacters aesthetic.
Her stats - Like all leaders, Nix gets an additional action token (granting 3 per game round), has above average agility (7), marksmanship (7) and intelligence (7). Meaning she can reliably shoot, dodge, tackle dynamic movement tests and grab objectives. Her toughness (3) and armour (1) is in roughly line with the other faction leaders.
Armed with a recurve bow, she has a respectable range of 12/18, and with the primitive special rule she is able to fix the bow herself should it break. She also has a handpick as a close combat weapon…. But if you are in close combat with her – you are playing Artefacters extremely wrong!
Reflexes (2) allows her to reroll up to 2 failed armour rolls, and Run and Gun which allows her to move an extra 1” if she hits whilst shooting. Like I said in the intro: rules wise she is perfectly captured in the look-and-feel of a quintessential Indiana Jones hero.
My tip would be to use Nix exactly as intended – a mobile missile platform, leaping all around the terrain and causing all kinds of headaches for your opponent. She will die however to a close combat orientated character or concentrated fire. So keeping her moving is a must!
Ana has no armour, a very poor close combat stat (5) and a maximum damage output of 2/2 on both ranged and close combat. Lara croft – she isn’t. But! She can be very annoying to kill due to the faction-wide above average agility stat (7), and the special rules Camouflaged and Confound. Camouflaged gives a negative 1 modifier to anyone shooting at Ana, and Confound allows Ana to reroll the feat die when dodging. This is an extremely useful combination.
Ana is the team mech; meaning she can repair broken weapons mid-game! This is an extremely situational skill; sometimes guns don’t break. But when they do, you will want to make sure you have Ana on hand to fix them.
Aside from the mech skill – there is another solid reason to take Ana, and that is her weapon ‘Lucile’, or as I call her ‘’old reliable’’, because as weapons go – at least Lucile is consistent. 12/12 range, 2/2 damage. And if you are dishing out smoke markers, which Lucile does, then consistency is important! Ana can be used to provide cover in the form of smoke for the rest of your Artefacters. Which is particularly useful when fighting against ‘’shooty’’ factions like Firm or Militia, as she can help keep your fragile team alive for even longer. If in doubt – proceed under the safety of smoke!
This miniature is one of two reasons people buy the Artefacters starter set; the other being Nix herself. Sage is the Artefacter Berengii (Gorilla), unlike the other Berengii in the game which are often depicted as battle-ready hammer or axe wielding warriors, Sage takes a much more inspired approach. The sculpt stares in fascination at a lizard he has picked up, like a hairy David Attenborough. A rare tranquillity within a post-apocalyptic skirmish game!
Personally I am yet to fully get my head around how to best use Sage on the table – I think he works best as a control piece rather than an aggressive character. Stats-wise he is tanky (toughness 4, armour 1), with good mobility (agility 7). This steers me to use him as the primary objective grabber; send him down the flanks, through some difficult terrain and back again when he has secured his treasure. Ideally covered by some smoke provided by Ana.
He is armed with a Flechette Gun with reasonable range (9/15), but average damage (2/4). Which always leaves me feeling he leaves a little to be desired. Especially when factoring his below average marksmanship (5!). He also feels a little…. Average in combat compared to the Berengii of other factions with a lower close combat stat than Fancagne and Kassell (6 vs their 7) and a lower damage potential on his Mattock of 3/4, vs Fancagne’s 3/5 damage shock axe, or Hosk’s 4/5 damage powersledge hammer. Still he is better in CC than most of the rest of the Artefacters!
Although perhaps damage is not his forte intentionally. He does come with the special rule ‘Mighty Blow’ which allows you to half your damage, and knock the enemy model 3” backwards and prone. Perfect if you want to make your getaway with an objective and avoid prolonged combat. Sage also can reroll the attribute dice in CC via the Savage special rule, and reroll the attribute test when climbing via the Mobility special rule.
If you expect him to be your primary damage dealer, you might end up disappointed. But if you play him as intended, with the Artefacters mobility in mind, you will love him I’m sure.
Corian is a medic, and therefore has a special skill where he can heal wounded models during the game. I have found this alone to make Corian 100% worth taking. Nothing beats running over to a fallen Nix or Sage, and getting them back on their feet again to continue the fight. I’ve never seen an Artefacters player not take Corian.
His stats are decent - agility (7), marksmanship (6) and intelligence (7). Meaning he has an average shot, but an above average dodge, tackle dynamic movement tests and ability to grab objectives. Most importantly the intelligence stat is used for the medic skill – and 7 is huge. His toughness (3) and armour (1) is in roughly line with the other characters.
Like Nix, Corian is armed with a basic handpick (damage 2), and like Nix – you should avoid combat unless necessary. Your bullpup is your ranged weapon and it is pretty good – range 10/16 and damage 3/4. This allows Corian to sit back and provide cover for his comrades. Of course he can go for objectives himself, but I prefer to keep the medic at a safe distance from potential close combat. Only really moving him out of a strong defensive position to finish off a wounded enemy or to heal a friend.
Corian has two special rules – Overwatch (reroll attribute die if shooting as a reaction) and Run and Gun which allows him to move an extra 1” if he hits whilst shooting. Nothing game breaking, but it’s better than nothing.
Now if Indiana Jones was a dino-lizard-man, or more accurately a Sorian, instead of Harrison Ford – there is a high chance he would have been played by Slethssk. Now I love the sculpt, but I am not a fan of his rules. To me he seems very one dimensional, and very average. Often he is the first model I drop from the starter set for other things (Ando, Kohua, Dino’s etc) – but that is likely due to my playstyle than anything.
He has a very average statline – combat (6), agility (6), marksmanship (6), intelligence (6) [can you see a pattern here?]. Although fortunately for game balance, he doesn’t have toughness (6) or armour (6)… that would make him all levels of godly. But in keeping with average stats he does have toughness (2), armour (1) which is about as standard as it gets in The Drowned Earth.
So why take him?
I must say his saving grace is his special skills – he is a scout which allows him to deploy further up the table then everyone else. He also has Stealth and Re-stealth, which allows him to effectively go invisible to other models – preventing him from being engaged in combat or shot at, unless he is discovered first (an intelligence-based roll). This often means you get to react with Slethssk and engage when you want to; rather than when the enemy forces you to. This does make him a good control piece, and a handy early or late game objective grabber. Worst case scenario he does force the opponent to discover him first, which will slowly eat through their available action points – even if he achieves nothing else.
Admittedly he’s my least favour favourite. But I can see why some people love him.
Additional Characters/Blister Packs
It is of course possible to take Nix mounted on a Yuttaraptor! And I mean why not, seems like a no brainer right?! It does cost 11pts more than the unmounted version, but rule of cool dictates it is a upgrade worth taking and the miniature itself is absolutely fantastic!
The raptor comes with 4 wounds of his own, decent toughness (4), and a strong rending bite (damage 3/4). Mounted Nix does however lose Reflexes (2) and run & gun special rules, but gains Mobility (re-roll attribute dice for leap tests), Savage (reroll attribute dice in combat), and Deadeye (ignore cover). A fair trade off in my opinion! Although my opponents have also found themselves missing the Reflexes (2) in games…. So it’s not the perfect upgrade.
Note: The cavalry rules are a little more complex than standard, so I would advise not using a mounted character in your first few games whilst you get the hang of things.
The alternative Artefacters leader, Playdge… the best place to start here is my perhaps controversial opinion that I think this big old Panda would have got a lot more play time if he was in a different faction or if he wasn’t a leader. Is he a bad unit? Not really. Will I ever play him instead of Nix? Likely never. He just isn’t my cup of tea. Playdge doesn’t suit my personal play style (although neither do the Artefacters to be fair!) as I prefer the straight forward aggression that Nix provides…but I can see value in him for certain players. So what does he bring to the table?
Like all leaders he has 3 action tokens and the command special ability.
Unlike Nix however, he sucks in close combat (5!) and has an average marksmanship stat (6). He has 0 damage at range, and can only do a maximum of 2 damage in close combat. He’ll be extremely lucky to kill any enemy miniatures or do much damage at all. But this game is not always about killing or winning the war of attrition it is about grabbing objectives and scoring points: this is where Playdge excels. If you build a list around him, I’m sure it would be stronger than anything Nix can come up with.
He has high agility stat (7) and a high intelligence stat (8) making him perfect to dodge around and grab objectives himself. Playdge is equipped with a 12’ range Smoke launcher. Whilst it doesn’t do damage, it does provide smoke markers to give your squad more cover, and therefore more chance to escape a firefight unhurt. He combines really well with Ana for double smoke!
The best part of Playdge though is his special rules:
Hyperaware allows any friendly miniatures within 10’ to have a FREE shooting action (attribute dice only) if they successfully pass a dodge. This is incredibly powerful, especially when stacked with the various artefacters dodging special rules and movement shenanigans. Simply a fantastic ‘’support’’ rule which widely benefits the rest of the team.
Playdge also wears a teleporting jetpack, granting him two rules Blink Move & Blink Field. The Blink Move allows you to move 5’ (short movement) completely ignoring terrain or movement restrictions. You then roll an agility test, if you pass [remember his agility is crazy high!] you can then blink move again in the same turn. Effectively this would allow you to teleport into a building for example, grab an objective, and teleport back outside again. Crazy good.
Blink Field is also a handy rule that helps keep Playdge alive for longer. As a reaction he can perform a blink reaction, allowing him to move 3’ in any direction if he passes an unopposed roll. In the right situation this could move him out of ‘’pass range’’ to ‘’nailed it range’’, out of range completely, or even better, completely out of line of sight. Rendering the action wasted!’
Writing this, I am now feeling a lot more excited about Playdge than I expected…. Maybe he does deserve a second chance!
So Kohua looks amazing, the miniature itself is fantastic. One of my favourites. A dino-man with a tranquilizer rifle… yes please.
Rules wise he is a little underwhelming in terms of depth, but he is cheap at only 11 points. So worth considering regardless.
His role is simple and straight forward. He only does one thing and he does it reliably well. He is armed with a tranq-rifle which has a range of 10/20 (pretty long max range!) and has the special rules stun and pierce. Whilst only dishing out low damage (1/2), he is pretty handy for taking one action token and potentially a wound from an enemy at range: don’t underestimate the power of stun. It can be game changing if timed correctly. Did I mention he also ignores hard and soft cover? This makes him even more reliable in shoot outs.
He is also armed with a machette for close combat. His combat stat is low (5), and the damage of a machette is average (2/3) BUT… he did recently kill my full health Baronyx in close combat purely by reacting with the machette twice. That’s a true story! It is a dice game after all…
He has no armour, only 3 wounds, and generally average stats. But yeah… for 11 points, you can’t really complain. If you have the points spare, I would likely add him instead of a dino or Wayfarer mercenary.
Here is a rare case where, when first released – I hated everything about Ando. Disliked the miniature, disliked the rules and didn’t ever want to use him. Oh how things have changed. I LOVE Ando, he is a great addition to the Artefacters. Why?
He has the highest damage output potential (6!) and highest close combat stat (7) in the whole faction. Effectively giving him the ability to instant kill ANYTHING in the game, if the dice go your way. His Dino-Chopper close combat weapon’s damage (3/6) is the joint highest in the entire game. It’s higher than any of the Berengii (gorillas), higher than almost all dinos, higher than all unmounted leaders. Only 2 other miniatures have an equal damage potential – the Ankylo and Mounted Forek [Militia leader]. This alone makes him a must take for me.
He is a scout, so can deploy further up the field than most. Getting him even closer to combat range! Speaking of getting closer to combat range; he is also armed with a grabbling gun. Now don’t be put off by the low damage (1/2) or short range (1/2). This offers stun (minus 1 action token) and the Grapple special rule. Essentially repositioning the target model into base to base with Ando; potentially without any actions left to then react to the Dino-Chopper of doom!
In contrast to my starting sentence, Ando has very little wrong with him. I just wish he was a bondsman instead! He is the perfect close combat assassin and very much my playstyle!
I almost forgot the leadership abilities!
Fire Arrows (Nix only): Straight forward, gives nice the "fire (1)" special rule for ranged attacks. Nicely themed, but not super useful compared to other abilities.
Wise Caution (Playdge only): Faction wide immunity to "blind", also grants any Artefacters with "Run and Gun" special rule, to also have "Quickshot" – which essentially ensures that your successful dice rolls cannot be overturned by the enemies better attack dice. A really good tactical ability! Makes Playdge so much more of an option.
Hard Training: Another straight forward ability, gives all allied Artefacters +1 speed to their dodge movement. Again, nicely themed but situational. If you are playing the way Artefacters should be (dodging a lot!) then this is a handy little extra boost.
Tactical Preparations: A once per game use, this allows ALL Artefacters to take a FREE dodge as if they rolled a nailed it result. As if this wasn’t powerful enough, they do NOT cause any reactions.
Alert Crew: A card also available to Bondsmen and The Firm, this allows an additional 6 points of effect cards to be taken.
Given the choice, I’d want to take Hard Training out of the options. Even if it is only one use per game. But Playdge’s Wise Caution is also very tempting.