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06 June 2011 | Nathan Pullen

(1) A staff or support to assist a lame or infirm person in walking, now usually with a crosspiece at one end to fit under the armpit.

(2) Any of various devices resembling this in shape or use.

(3) Anything that serves as a temporary and often inappropriate support, supplement, or substitute; prop: He uses liquor as a psychological crutch.

I’m going to throw it out there – I think a dependence on crutches makes you less competitive of a player. Now I’m aware that this is in contravention to conventional wisdom on the issue. In fact, conventional wisdom states the direct opposite –that there are a range of crutches available to every faction that must be included before your list has even a chance to win. I call “bollocks” on that wisdom. I see thee “nay” and shall cast that conventional wisdom down like the lazy heretic that it is.

Stick with me and I’ll show you why.

What is a crutch?
I figure this is a good place to start. Crutches are known by many different terms across the gaming globe. Crutches are those units that you will place into your force before doing anything else. In some cases, you’ll drop these models in before even before a caster is settled upon. I know that in Cygnar, players I know will drop in a Squire, a Journeyman Warcaster and the Black 13th before making any other decision. I overheard a Menoth player the other day talking about how his Menoth lists can only ever total 15-20 points because he will, before doing anything else, allocate points for a Choir, the Avatar, a Reckoner and the Covenant of Menoth. Now at this point, I can see a few of you nodding your heads and agreeing, not only because you are aware of the models I’m talking about in your own faction, but because you agree entirely that these models should be there.

Why are crutches bad?
In any sort of definition sense, a crutch is something that will assist a lame or injured person to maintain a modicum of self-reliant activity. A crutch is normally further defined/accepted as being a temporary assistant at best. Let’s just look at that definition again: a crutch will assist a lame or infirm person. Why do we refer to those “auto-include” models as crutches? I would argue that its because they are designed to prop up those lists/players that are lame or infirm in and of themselves. Don’t get me wrong – there is a definite time and place for crutches. I would never ever suggest that a learning player should attempt to list-build for Cygnar without a Squire. Such an act has a great potential to cripple both the educational and enjoyable path that new player should expect to have with that faction. Likewise a budding Menoth player should always have a choir. I would challenge, though, that any player with experience should make every effort to never use one of these crutch units! It is well accepted medical practice that an overdependence on a crutch results in permanent (and sometimes irreversible) damage to a patient.

Where did crutches come from?
I can remember a time (back around Superiority) where there seemed to be a good deal fewer crutches than there are now. I have spent a bit of time wondering about this and I believe the culprit to be the internet. As this marvellous game of ours has grown in popularity and scope, there is an ever-increasing forum and blog presence. Many a new player has perhaps too much of a dependence on those forums and blogs and thus will only ever play with the models they are told to play. Without fail, when a Legion player asks “what should I buy next?” they are told Forsaken and Shepherds. Is this information wrong? Not in and of itself, no. It does, however, flow on from here to challenging perfectly useful and awesome units. No-one I know (aside from myself) has ever played with Sword Knights in MkII. Why not? Because they suck now. That was, at one point, the overwhelming opinion regarding the eponymous knight and for some reason it sticks. I, on the other hand, love them! Where else in Cygnar can you possibly find a unit that can be fielded at just over 0.5pt/model that nearly always has ARM17 and will flank with any of your warjacks? They are just awesome units! The poor Circle Orboros Skinwalkers suffer exactly the same fate. The internet doesn’t think they’re any good? Heaven forbid you should use them! Right up until my ARM18 Heavy Infantry Skinwalkers whack you to bits ‘coz you didn’t manage to shoot them in time. At that point, I have had more than one opponent scream “but they’re not any good! The forums told me so!” Back to our crutches and you can see that they tend to be the models that the forums tell us are good, and are necessary.

A challenge on crutches
I truly believe that a reliance on crutches is dulling our collective gaming experience. Every single player I know (bar the newest) has their crutches. In some cases, they are models that I have been facing across the table for years. They’re not being used for anything new or unique – the Journeyman Warcaster in question is still just running around (more often than not with a Hunter), dropping Arcane Shields. I know that this is a thing which makes perfect sense to most of us – I’m not challenging that. This is a combination that takes up some 8pts and is in every list I have seen in the last few years. Since Legends, there has been a Squire and the Black 13th in there too. With MkII a Cyclone. Every list. This player has only been building half an army for a long time. There has been no experimentation with some of the less loved units out there. There have been no new breakthroughs and, I challenge, the list building skills are currently underdeveloped at best as he has not built with more than 15 available points for some times. Sure, the details change. Sometimes I see Kraye with another couple of ‘jacks. Sometimes I see Caine with some Gun Mages. I always see the crutches though.

With the introduction of the FoW/H books this has changed somewhat. Many of the theme lists out there allow very few of the crutches people are used to and offer a very thematic (although tightly constrained) option for list building. Some of the players I know love the theme lists and have enthusiastically jumped on board. Most of them stick to their crutches.

So I challenge you, gamer. I challenge all of you: drop your crutches. Let your supports designed to prop an ailing infirmity drop to the ground and step forward under your own weight and motion! Take a big brave step into the world of gaming. Ask around for what is an auto-include before building your new list and make sure it has no place in your army! Challenge the conventional wisdom of the community at large and blaze forth a trail a light for others to follow. Before you know it, you might find others around you dropping their own crutches. Before you know it, all of you will be walking on your own two feet, under your own power and free of any of the supporting structures designed solely for the lame and infirm. It might hurt for a bit, but it’ll be worth it.

Edited by Damien Hennessy

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