The Spires are one of Conquest’s most strange and unique factions. Unlike with a human faction, this army composed of monsters, mutants and demented surgeons resists easy analysis. Over time, though, the twisted logic of the Spires will become clear: This is not one army. These are multiple distinct factions in coalition. Each offers enormous synergy to the others but they each have their own distinct ideas of what an army looks like and what the path to victory should be. The strongest Spires lists are centered around just one of these gameplans, with the other subfactions acting in support.
- Extremely good characters
- Powerful sources of healing
- Excellent ranged game
- Weak lategame with few Heavies
- No defense against magic
- Tend to blow themselves up
These are all enormously powerful and well balanced against each other, there’s no clear loser or obvious pick here. However each of them represents a huge commitment – they lock you into a specific warlord, and come with the massive opportunity cost of not picking the other two. Whichever you go with will underpin your entire army and strategy, going to a different one is almost like playing a different faction.
The Sovereign Lineage
If you don’t have a clear plan, select this. It is straightforwards, powerful and easy to get a lot out of. For 5 points per stand you can add +1 clash (max 3) and +1 evasion (max 2). You should immediately disregard the evasion side of that – for most of the units you can apply this to it will not matter. Instead we’re looking entirely at that Clash.
For the Lineage Highborne this affects two units – the Avatara and the Incarnate Sentinels – nothing else in her warband benefits meaningfully from it. Still, though, those two units benefit massively. Incarnate Sentinels in particular being one of the faction’s few sources of Cleave turn into absolute showstoppers when they’re Clash 3. Avatara go from being ordinary profiles to legitimately good ones. Even the Impact attacks of both of those units become suddenly fearsome when enhanced with the Lineage. The Lineage Highborn in a unit of five Incarnate Sentinels is one of the most powerful units in the game.
For the High Clone Executor the picture isn’t quite as clear. The High Clone is traditionally there to unlock powerful ranged options but with the Lineage she’ll need to lean into her close combat options. Superior Creation Brute Drones are serviceable sidegrade to Incarnate Sentinels, Bound Clones definitely appreciate being Clash 3 but with large units that surcharge adds up.
The Directorate is the Spires at its coldest and most ruthless. Its gameplan benefits from patience and perfect timing. Don’t just look at the 1/turn Burnout when evaluating this because the Biomancer’s Supremacy ability is the other half of it. In practice, the idea is to trickle in sacrificial units a bit at a time until your army is in position – and then everything attacks in a mad rush all at once. By the end of it both sides will be dead.
The Directorate leans towards two units in particular: Force-Grown Drones and Incarnate Sentinels. The former get the most out of the Burnout draw event – they’re already so sacrificial that the difference between 12 wounds on a unit and 1 wound on a unit is not relevant; their job is to take one (1) action to kill.
While the Clash is bonus from Burnout is nice, the real strength of the Directorate is +2 inches of movement wherever you need it. That extends your threat range enormously, and it pairs with Unstable Enhancement for a wild +4 movement – though that’s a real emergency move because anything you do that to is probably going to decay straight to hell after it’s done.
When you think about Regeneration (4) on your entire army then it’s natural to fixate on it. It’s natural to combine that with other sources of healing in pursuit of the dream of the unkillable wall of meat. It’s so obviously, devastatingly good that even though I’m going to spend this section explaining why it’s not actually that good it’s still very good.
The problem, then, with Regeneration (4) is the problem the Spires’ healing has more broadly, so I’m going to talk about it at length here. Specifically the problem is when your unit gets Broken. Regeneration is a draw event which means the window for it comes and goes before a Broken unit has the chance to unbreak itself. This means that if your opponent can halve your unit size in a single attack then the ability is worthless.
So just use larger unit sizes, the logic immediately goes – but how big does a unit of Onslaught Drones have to be to survive getting charge+clashed by a big unit of Ashen Dawn Knights or a Mountain Giant? Defense 2 does not go very far at all when you’re being hit by a severe combat unit and you can expect to lose 4 stands all at once if you’re lucky and the attached support character isn’t duelled. This means that to ensure you don’t get broken in combat against an endgame unit you need a minimum unit size of around 7-10 stands plus a support character. In that situation you’re likely recovering 1.5-3 stands from a variety of healing effects, which maybe outpaces the incoming damage but isn’t guaranteed to. You might be able to win that fight, but if your unit size drops low enough that any of those attacks break you then the whole thing falls apart. Moreover, one big unit with Regeneration 4 is less total regeneration than many small units, but those smaller units have higher chances of Breaking and not regenerating at all.
But still, if you can get on the right side of the healing curve you can become literally unkillable, an endless tarpit of fresh bodies. In the short term you can laugh off incidental ranged fire. You just need to structure your entire gameplan around avoiding becoming Broken. This means preventing your opponent from concentrating force by any means necessary.
The Spires is cursed with excellent characters. And this is a curse – it’s so easy to spend points on them, so easy to justify spending points on them, so easy to see how their synergies overlap and empower each other and before you know it you’ve spent over 500 points on characters and upgrades and your actual army is looking really thin, especially if you’ve also spent a lot on ranged units.
When building lists think a lot about your support budget, and remind yourselves that character upgrades are competing for that against your ranged units. You need boots on the ground, and lots of them, in order to not have your lines instantly crumple when impacted by giants, werewolves and fire laser wizards.
The Lineage is a fantastic piece with a fantastic statline. In a fair fight she’ll beat anything that’s not a dedicated combat monster – but be aware that’s her cap. For all the mutations she can get with Legacies of the Ark none of them fundamentally alter her combat profile – they’re almost all support for her unit. In personal combat she is good but she will never be great.
As a Legacies of the Arc target there are two configurations that recommend themselves:
– Command Pheromones, Pheromantic Override, Cascading Degeneration
This is the pure unit commander version. Her attached unit of Incarnate Sentinels will be Resolve 5, Aura of Death 2, and be able to make a 1/game out of sequence Clash. This is generally the recommended configuration- you can use Venom rather than Command Pheromones for a little extra damage if you’d like, but I operate in an environment with a lot of Terror so the extra resolve is at a premium for me.
– Pheromantic Override, Infiltator Variant, Biotic Hive
This is the ranged commander unit, operating from a unit of Leonine Avatara. It’s a close call between Adaptive Evolution and Biotic Hive, but more dice lets you fish for more Rapid Volley hits.
Entirely okay and serviceable units that move to genuine contenders when made Superior Creations. They’re just a Good Numbers unit, they do a little bit of everything, they can be made to scale into large bricks but you’re just as fine keeping them as a minimum sized all purpose unit. If not benefiting from Superior Creations they’re distinctly average for their price, which means you’re likely taking them as mainstay slot fillers. In that role, they’ll hold objectives against most things their price and not embarrass themselves.
Pour one out for the most cursed unit in the game.
Their profile is absolutely fine, no problems with it at all. I’d happily take these any day. They will perform very well against a huge variety of targets. Incredible sculpts! But you’ll never field them. This is purely because they’re in a Restricted slot in the Lineage Highborn’s warband.
The first problem with that is that you’ll never take them in a Sovereign Lineage army because they’re already Clash 3 and those points and restricted slot can be spent on Incarnate Sentinels instead, who benefit enormously from the Lineage. The second problem is that you’ll never take them in a non Sovereign Lineage army because they’re standing next to things like Leonine Avatara and the Siegebreaker Behemoth which represent unique armour-breaking capabilities that the army can’t get elsewhere. If they were mainstay they’d be a fascinating add but right now there’s just no space for them to breathe.
An excellent second-rank support piece, the Leonine Avatara are the top pick for a Lineage Highborn who isn’t in the Sovereign Lineage army. High AP, size two letting them see over the heads of their blocking infantry, and Evasion 3 make them a resilient and capable fire platform to back up a brick of Bound Clones.
As Superior Creations, these are the best profiles the Spires have access to and you can run two units of five if you felt like it. Resolve is the weakest part of the equation so leading them with a Lineage Highborn is essential, but after that these are one of the best units to put buffs through. Anything that a Pheromancer or Biomancer can do to the Sentinels just ups them further and further, and even their impact attacks can wipe weak screening units.
When not enhanced by Superior Creations they’re still good but much less reliable. One of the better ways to bring them in that case is as an escort for an Avatar Projection Biomancer who can act as a healing battery and force multiplier for an extremely powerful unit.
The ability to just make a unit cease existing is never to be underestimated; the Siegebreaker on an average attack will inflict 6 autowounds and associated terror 2 panic checks. This is a great way to crack an otherwise immoveable unit of Stoneforged or the like; without it, the Spires plan for dealing with highly armoured unit is Deadly Blades and hope. The only catch is that the Siegebreaker is slow and extremely inefficient at dealing with screening units or things with evasion. Against your opponents’ best it’ll do excellent work, but if the dice are even a little unkind it will fail to kill a minimum sized unit of militia who make a sacrificial charge against it.
They’ve got a clear use case against a specific target: phalanxes. Against a phalanx these can fly overhead and launch a powerful rear charge with cleave and terror against a unit that will have practically no defense, and shut off the Support special rule in so doing. Even just the ability to move+shoot anything out to 30 inches gives them a vast threat range, and as Medium units they can zoom out of reserves onto almost any objective on the table.
Do watch out for Fly, though. It’s a much, much less good rule than you might think at first. Notably, it doesn’t let you see over forests, and it doesn’t even inure you against Hindering terrain taking away your impact attacks. Importantly, it doesn’t even let you charge through your own engaged regiments. It’s nice to have, might save you a few inches here or there, or let you outmaneuver a phalanx, but keep in mind the rule is extremely narrow: It lets you March over enemy regiments and impassible terrain, and that is it.
Outside of that they’re fragile, expensive and lackluster. There’s nothing sadder than rear charging some Old Dominion Bone Golems and getting disintegrated by Aura of Death for your troubles. Let your use be guided by the local meta.
High Clone Executor
Much like the Lineage Highborn, the High Clone Executor is a good but not great combatant, but the reason to bring her is her warband. The Executor’s warband is extremely extensive and packed with enormously powerful profiles, especially in the Restricted slots. She won’t embarrass herself in a duel but, like most Spires characters, her real effect is in force multiplication.
Of her orders the overwhelming standout is Loose Formation. This is an enormously powerful ability that can go on any unit to huge effect. Given how easily Bastion is to add to most other relevant units with a Ward Preceptor, Loose Formation should be the default.
Upgrade-wise, you can either go heavily into mutations to support either a unit of Marksman Clones or Vanguard Clone Infiltrators. If you’re using her as a direct combatant in Bound Clones the recommended loadout is Adaptive Evolution and Disorienting Strikes, which will cheaply accomplish the goal of superiority in duels against peer combatants.
Force Grown Drones
The humble Force Grown Drone can fit into a number of different roles depending on your requirements. None of them have anything to do with a statline comprised entirely of 1’s and everything to do with the fact that they cost 90 points.
The most basic use of the Drones is as an escort to move a backfield Biomancer or Pheromancer around. Both of those units benefit somewhat from being in the middle of large, important units but they benefit even more from not being stabbed to death by angry dwarves. Having even one of these units on hand as an ‘escape pod’ that your Biomancer can use to nope out of a big, unwieldly clone block that’s trundling inevitably towards a Fallen Divinity can save your very expensive character. However, the big catch is that the unit can’t hold territory or score points so a 30 point upgrade to Bound Clones, while still being relatively useless in direct battle, should be seriously considered.
The second use is as minimum sized disposable bombs. Give them Catabolic Nodes and/or juice them with the Directorate’s burnout and/or a Biomancer’s unstable enhancement and/or supremacy ability, and you can charge 15 inches, throw 16 clash 4 attacks+2d6 auto hits, and then die immediately afterwards. Maybe a couple even survive, taking a turn to finish off, setting up for the next wave of bomb drones to go in.
A quick disclaimer on the Catabolic Node: It’s probably not worth it on minimum sized units. It’s quite likely to wipe out one or more of your own stands when it goes off, which reduces the number of attacks that the Drones then make. It’s quite hard for it to be cost effective – it becomes cost effective when used in larger units, ideally one lead by a high resolve character, but in that case you probably want it in Onslaught Drones rather than Force-Grown Drones.
The final use is as a big Underspires regeneration block in a big conga line column formation to minimize frontage, which is undesirable for an Attacks 3 unit with support. This is a straight up tarpit designed to be as awkward to kill as possible – just make sure to keep the flanks safe.
These are an essential aspect of Spires list simply because they’re the toughest things you can put Biomancers in. A large unit of Bound Clones lead by a character is not a match for the infantry formations of other factions on stats alone. You take them not because they’re worth anything inherently, you take them because they can carry around an enormously powerful support character who is a massive multiplier on everything they do. To this end, the Ward Preceptor and a unit size of 6-8 is preferable – this unit with a Degenerative Aura Biomancer can be wildly difficult and punishing to kill while holding key territory.
You may feel tempted to chase the dragon with fully cranked vanguard clones – Superior Creations, Assault and Ward attachments with Fleshy Abundance, full biomancer support. On paper it makes an intimidating unit. It’s not worth it though – it’s so intensely fragile, expensive and hard to maneuver I can’t recommend it. A unit of 5, which is about as small as you could accept with that kind of commitment, comes in at 330 points, barely hits resolve 4 natively, and labours under the sin of a defense that relies on Bastion. Buffed with Deadly Blades, they’ll certainly delete the things they touch but they’re the definition of glass jaw, and so help you if you hit at an awkward angle where only 1-2 stands can engage. All this and they scarcely outperform unsupported Vanguard Clone Infiltrators.
Using them independently is a little better, they’re an adaptive threat that menaces low-defense models especially, though I don’t find them as compelling as their weight in Brute Drones.
Reliable, effective ranged firepower with long enough range to be able to park themselves on an objective and still contribute. They’re less raw output than Vanguard Clone Infiltrators but they’re more reliable and better able to support a frontline unit. The main thing to keep in mind is that these are second rank archers and they should never, ever be in front of your combat lines. You do not under any circumstances need to risk these getting ahead of your main force even if there’s a juicy shot waiting. This is a ten turn game and these guys will do their best work if they’re firing until the end.
A larger unit makes a fantastic target for a Biomancer’s Grant Virulence, especially in early turns before the biomancer is needed elsewhere. They pair best with a Pheromancer, though – double-shooting is much easier to set up at the ranges the Marksman Clones engage in.
Vanguard Clone Infiltrators
Of all the pieces in the Spires, maybe leave this one at home until your local community has a few games under their belt. They’re not unstoppable but they’re very, very good, especially in a way that newer players will have a hard time dealing with. In terms of sheer volume of shots and sheer swinginess of their effects they can make or break the game with a few volleys.
Just for comparison, a unit of three with a High Clone Executor, buffed by Unstable Enhancement/Deadly Blades from a Biomancer, deals about as much damage as twenty stands of crossbowmen. When you factor in the character prices that’s actually kind of comparable in sheer points, but being able to concentrate that much force onto a single point is kind of disgusting.
The big thing to watch out for is impact attacks or aura of death. Either puts you at risk of getting move-charged and inflicting huge out of sequence damage that these fragile, short range pieces can’t easily take. But if you can keep that glass jaw up, especially against slower infantry, then they’ll cut their opposition to ribbons. Keep in mind that you can have them retreat and still shoot – Fluid Formation grants 360 line of sight, and with a High Clone Executor they’re very likely to pass the resolve check, giving a nasty surprise to a unit that move-charged them.
Good all-rounders with solid numbers, you’ll never feel bad about having these. Good as Superior Creations, extremely resistant to morale damage, and Flurry makes them very consistent at outputting damage. The Spires have a lot of units in this combat brute role but these are the baseline ones you take if you don’t have the warbands to allow the fancier versions.
These aren’t bad profiles but they’re cursed to be ‘not bad’ when surrounded by best-in-show profiles of Marksman Clones, Vanguard Clone Infiltrators, Leonine Avatara and – especially painfully – the Desolation Beast which does everything they do and better.
The Biomancer is one of the best characters in the game. Fully tricked out in ideal conditions she can provide a maximum of 15 points of healing every turn. Even at the baseline she can wipe away the effect of softening arrow fire before the lines meet and be a reliable source of powerful buffs after that. She’s so good and all of her upgrades are so good it’s easy to straight up spend 200 points on her.
And then some fucking dwarf will walk up and challenge her to a duel and all of that falls apart.
Suddenly she’s lost her 1d6+1 points of healing as a draw event, and suddenly she needs to spend her action unbreaking her unit instead of healing it and there is nothing to stop that fucking dwarf challenging her again next turn. This problem cannot be overstated: The biomancer cannot be getting in fights. Even if that means cutting back on upgrades, giving up on the promise of Degenerative Aura and hanging out in the second line with the archers, that’s all better than getting constantly stuffed into a locker by jocks.
As far as upgrades go, consider then if you’re going to risk her in a main battle unit or have her detached in the second line – and if you’re going main battle biomancer, make sure there’s a second line unit for her to retreat to if needed if the alternative means getting dueled. Just accept that those hundred points of upgrades aren’t useful this game.
As a combat Biomancer the most important upgrade is Fleshcarver, which represents two points of healing each turn and potentially an important breakpoint when it comes to, say, raising a destroyed Incarnate Sentinel with Mend Flesh. A combat Biomancer will be using Harvest Essence a lot, pulling defense or attack from nearby archers to improve her unit, or Unstable Enhancement to push threat ranges for important charges.
Going to Flesh 3 is expensive and while it’s very good it’s more limited than it looks – even Flesh 2 you’ll find yourself with surprisingly few situations with two damaged and unbroken units both within 8 inches. A second line biomancer strangely doesn’t need any upgrades at all to be effective and worthwhile – even just two points of healing every turn adds up a lot. The second line biomancer’s main job is to cast Grant Virulence (about the damage equivalent of adding Cleave 1 against most targets, though it gets hard countered by Untouchable), most likely to a nearby unit of Marksmen Clones. You can grant her the Marksman Variant and have her fully commit to the ranged lifestyle, though positioning her so that she’s within 8 inches of a unit she wants to heal means getting real close with those archers.
The advantage to Flesh 3, then, is the specific combo of Deadly Blades and Unstable Enhancement at the same time, which works wonders with any kind of high dice volume attack. If she’s the warlord you can also pair this with the Directorate’s Burnout draw event. What this gets you is sheer initiative – the Biomancer can activate, have an important unit make an extremely high value attack, make multiple uses of high value healing, and maybe even use the Turn the Tide draw event instead of Biotic Renewal for an enormously front-loaded turn. For the full Flesh Biomancer I rate having her in a small personal bodyguard especially because the positioning to have all of that go off is so precise you can’t let the demands of the combat units dictate it, and you can’t risk the duels.
The other configuration for the Biomancer is to put her in a unit of Incarnate Sentinels with Avatar Projection. Fleshcarver becomes even more important here. The threat of duels recedes a little in this case – the Biomancer has to heal herself before her unit, so as long as she’s at least surviving each duel she’s likely recovering to full, and if she threatens some actual damage in exchange then eventually attrition will do her work in the end.
It’s big, it’s Heavy, but it is not a linebreaker combat piece. What you’re paying for is speed. Specifically, the speed to march-march out of reserves and put 3 stands worth of scoring potential onto almost any objective on the board. In this role it’s phenomenal, and it’s so cheap it’s never to be underestimated. It is entirely possible to run 3-4 of these and have it be good.
Abominations are fragile, though. Most heavy units coming on at the same time they are will destroy them easily. If you need to use them in a fighting role try to take advantage of that speed to slip past heavier units and get unto backfield objective holders or support archers.
It shares a slot and pricetag with the Abomination, but the Desolation Beast is your pick if you want something that’ll kill stuff. Speed is an issue – the Beast is not slow but it wants to be as close as possible, so consider deploying it in a formation supported by a Biomancer who can use Unstable Enhancement to possibly get it into a firing position a turn or two early. But once it’s standing behind a sufficiently resilient combat unit the Desolation Beast will just rack up kills at an unsettling pace.
The ‘sufficiently resilient combat unit’ is the operative phrase there. Spires generally plays light and fragile so having a big anvil for the Beast to shelter behind for multiple turns is the harder part of that combo. A block of 6 bound clones with Bastion and a Biomancer is about the minimum. Also be aware that the Beast is an extremely high variance unit. Sometimes it’ll do absolutely nothing, sometimes it’ll delete a Fallen Divinity in a single volley, the range of possibilities is the cost of doing business.
I think the rivalry between Biomancers and Pheromancers is one of the most fascinating and clever bits of game design I’ve ever seen. In terms of raw output the Pheromancers actually do better than their Biomancer rivals – Putting two units in Accelerated Hibernation for 8 points of healing and giving them +1 resolve each weighs favorably to 4 points of healing and using Harvest Essence to give the Biomancer’s unit +1 defense. On the offensive, Inspiring a unit and having it clash twice is much more dangerous than +1 clash and deadly blades. In terms of raw output the Pheromancer gets it done.
The catch is that the Pheromancer is an absolute pain in the ass to utilize. She’s rigid, inflexible and doesn’t play nice with others. Using her threatens to mess up your entire battleplan. If you want to use Pheromancers I believe you need to go all in on Pheromancers to get their peak effect. That means bringing two with Flesh 3 on each. I’ll walk you through how this works.
Two Pheromancers with Flesh 3, each in a large Onslaught Drone unit. One Pheromancer goes on the very top of the deck, one goes on the bottom, both onslaught drone cards under the first Pheromancer. The first Pheromancer activates; if either unit is engaged she uses Pheromantic Compulsion+Pheromantic Drive to have it inspire and attack twice, otherwise she buffs or heals it. Now there’ll be one Onslaught card on the bottom of the stack, under the second Pheromancer’s card. When the second Pheromancer finally comes up she can repeat the process – second Onslaught card is already on the bottom so sending it to the bottom again is free – or if the Drones aren’t engaged then she can heal the Decay the primary unit suffered. It’s incredible if everything goes to plan. Doesn’t even matter if you’re Broken, from casualties or refusing a duel – Compulsion lets you freely recover from that. If the enemy somehow manages to kill one of your Defense 2 units of Drones, though, then you’re fucked.
So that’s the difference; if you can ensure everything follows your rigid battleplan perfectly then you’ll get higher performance out of the Pheromancers. If you just want an adaptive, useful healer who slots into a list and brings a wide variety of utility effects you’re probably better off with a Biomancer.
These are great at 35 points per additional stand, especially if they’ve got Regeneration 6 from a Pheromancer+Menagerie. They’ll absolutely shatter large formations that rely on Shields and Bastion, and they’re the ideal target for Pheromantic Drive. They’re so appealing and have so much going for them that it’s worth remembering that they’re barely more durable than Force Grown Drones and they’ll die in droves to anything that cares to attack them. For this reason, I recommend a block of 8-10. It’s a huge block for something that doesn’t have Support, and you will just have to deal with having a back rank that is adding a pittance of dice. You’re paying that price to avoid getting shattered and to pay the Decay tax from all the nightmare juice you’ll be pumping through these. If you do this then they’ll still be there in the lategame, growing stronger as their Regeneration starts to outpace the enemy’s ability to put them down. Also, a block that large can get you objective superiority.
A small adaptive threat minimum sized unit is okay, but for that price point I’d prefer Stryx. I wouldn’t take these at all outside of a full Pheromancer commitment including the Unnumbered Menagerie.
These are incredible, absolute joys to work with. They don’t need the Menagerie to be viable – in fact, if you’re taking a Pheromancer who isn’t your warlord, it’s almost certainly to add Stryx to your army. They’re the perfect little bastards who can just shit up your opponents deployment zones, they’ll slaughter factions who rely on lots of early game archers like Hundred Kingdoms, they can fly over big blocks or just hang out being annoying, and when they die they’ll still extract their pound of flesh with Lethal Demise. They’re the perfect harassment troops and taking two-three minimum sized units is wonderful.
Frankly, these guys have nothing going for them. Vastly more expensive than Stryx in the same role while being three wounds per stand. I wouldn’t take them at the Stryx’s price point of 120 points. They’re the hardest of hard passes.
When your entire faction relies on expensive, fragile characters not getting into duels the Assassin presents a clear answer. She’s an incredibly good character killer, pretty much the perfect statline for the job. She is, however, burdened under a stack of interrelated problems that are probably pretty good for players of other factions not getting the feels-bad experience of having their cool characters immediately facemurdered.
Firstly, the Spires mainstay units are, broadly, taxes. You’ll usually wind up with some force grown drones or avatara you don’t really want but they’re what the piper demands for another Brute regiment. To bring the Assassin you’ve got to pay the drone tax; her warband is a big limit.
The other problem with the Assassin is that Chameleonic is annoyingly ass backwards – you can’t enter a unit that’s already engaged, which is what the Assassin presumably wants to do. This means to intervene in an existing fight you need to have a unit the Assassin can pod into.
The Assassin, then, doesn’t have a reliable or obvious escort. If you’ve got a big block of Spires infantry it’s probably because there’ll be a character in it already. If you’ve got a small block of Spires infantry it’ll die if something looks at it funny. If you’re structuring a Spires turn then it probably starts with a Biomancer activating multiple units in a critical damage race and not prioritizing evacuating your assassin from a coming counterswing. And if the Assassin gets stuck somewhere without a character to kill she’s only really adding a very mild 5 hits to a unit. Sometimes the moment will arise organically though – if you’ve committed to a big Biomancer unit of Bound Clones and see her walking towards a particularly angry looking dwarf you might do the ol’ switcharoo, so long as you’ve got an empty third unit for the biomancer to transfer out into before the Assassin goes in.
What these problems seem to add up to is: the Assassin is disposable. She goes into a small unit, that unit goes into an engaged enemy unit with an important character that cares about being broken, she kills her target and then maybe she gets out of there before her escort gets erased by the counterswing. And that’s fine – she’s 90 points. And if you find yourself engaging dedicated combat monsters regularly then it’s worth your time. What’s not worth your time is going after an offensive spellcaster who refuses your duel and then obliterates your unit with a fireball. Hence the Assassin shouldn’t go ahead of the rest of the army, she should be waiting in the second line for the right moment.
The Spires are a difficult faction to easily buy into; one of their configurations is as a swarm faction and the one player starter pushes you in that direction. If you immediately buy into an Underspires-style horde infantry list you’ll have a lot of painting and building to do when just getting started. Instead, for the easiest on-road to the faction on a budget, I recommend bypassing the one player starter and instead going on an elite configuration like so:
=== The Last Argument of Kings ===
The Sovereign Lineage
== (Warlord) Lineage Highborne : Cascading Degeneration, Biotic Hive, Command Pheromones
* Avatara (3) : Superior Creations
* Incarnate Sentinels (4) : Superior Creations
== Biomancer : Fleshcarver
* Bound Clones (4) :
* Abomination (1) :
This represents multiple extremely high value adaptive threats that plays in an extremely straightforwards way, meaning you don’t have to start out immediately grappling with the eye-watering complexity of programming a Pheromancer’s command stack. It also gets you an army core that you can subsequently build around. Two units of 3 avatara and two units of 3 incarnate sentinels with a Lineage Highborn is nearly 900 points and only requires you to paint 13 models; you can simply attach whichever secondary warband you like to that initial army core to back it up and hold objectives while it’s out brawling.
But if time and budget aren’t factors, what does the most Spiresy Spires list look like?
=== The Last Argument of Kings ===
The Pheromancers [2000/2000]
The Under Spire
== (Warlord) Pheromancer : Cascading Degeneration, Flesh 1, Flesh 2, Flesh 3
* Onslaught Drones (7) :
* Stryx (3) :
* Brute Drones (3) :
* Stryx (3) :
== Pheromancer : Degenerative Aura, Flesh 1, Flesh 2, Flesh 3
* Onslaught Drones (7) :
* Stryx (3) :
* Brute Drones (3) :
== High Clone Executor : Tactic 3
* Bound Clones (3) :
* Marksman Clones (5) :
This is the full Pheromancer experience, bouncing cards around, ultracharging onslaught drones, bothering opponents with Stryx swarms, regenerating madly away from all of your problems. The High Clone Executor’s purpose is to swap places with either of the Pheromancers in a big Onslaught unit (pheromancer castles out into the marksman drones, high clone castles in) if it looks like the Pheromancer is staring down a particularly horrifying duelist or a big cav unit with a lot of impact attacks. This list is about as complex as a Conquest army gets to play, but it feels amazing when the plan just cascades together.