This is part two of my Yan Lo review. Please have a read of part one if you haven't already.
So what is the best case Yan Lo
Well I have assumed you’ve taken his three specific upgrades (although Wings of Wind or Misdirection or Recalled Training can all be swapped in with some use). At full power you get Yan Lo with Chi +3, with Ash, Spirit and Bone Ascendant attached. This gives you a casting 8 master with a Df/wp (Tome Trigger) to get his Df/Wp from 5 to 8. He will be impossible to Wound, Incorporeal. He will be able to summon back dead ancestors and able to lunch a Hung Po Assault with Brutal Kharakhara (and make a Melee attack against each model in range with a positive attack and damage flip). You will be able to heal, hand out armour +2 and position assaults with Lightening Dance. You can drop Terracotta Curse to cause enemies damage when they walk/charge.
Wow Bad Luck and Blood, that sounds great. I can’t believe you are moaning. He’s awesome and you suck. Hear the internet scream with rage.
Let’s look at that a bit more closely. Remember this is him at his best. He cannot have much Chi turn 1 at most 2/3 unless you enemy drops one of your nearby models with a sniper. So on turn 2 the player makes a decision. Casting or upgrades. Without the Ash or Spirit upgrade you don’t have incorporeal, Impossible to Wound or Terracotta Curse, nor do you have the free 1AP action for spirits. On Turn 3 you might well have lost a minion or something nearby and with another card discard and maybe some from Chiaiki or the Soul Porter you will be able to attach an upgrade or be using an upgrade to get him to drop Terracotta Curse. Now I know people are boucing up and down excitedly on their chairs saying “yes but he can hire Chiaki and she’s awesome” “hey you could get Yin and she’s fab” Well yes, Chiaki is 7 shades of awesome. She is just like a fresh bacon butty with brown sauce good. But I can take her in nearly every TT crew I’ve built with Mei Feng and she is just as good their too and Mei is just better than Yan Lo at every Strategy going. In fact I will be doing another post on how underrated she actually is!
By turn 3 you’ve got either Ash or Spirit and can then decide whether you try to get the Bone Ascendent to go Hung Po assault or you will go with healing and handing out Spirit to friendly models and armour +2. That has taken you 3 turns to get him half way to full power. That “fantastic” package above is rarely going to happen in a game. You are more likely to get a bit of it. So you spend a game trying to get him to a decent ability level.
Now lets look at some roles for Masters and see how he fits in.
Beater/Killer If you spend 3 to 4 turns you might make a semi competent beater out of Yan Lo. His Hung Po assault is a useful (2) action that lets you place and then attack multiple models with a positive attack and damage flip. The place bit is the most useful part. Now compare him to Mei Fang who can also chain attack multiple models. Her Melee is better and her damage spread is better. She is in no way a big hitter, but her chain attacks, good range and triggers make her very strong in melee against the right target. You can jump her in and feel you have a good chance of killing a non-master model in a lot of circumstances. Yan Lo will not do that. Mei can often ignore armour, hand out burning, push into base, chain attack then railwalk out. Yan Lo has to use a 2 AP to Hung Po in. If he wants to get out again he needs to Lightning Dance, so he will be doing basically 1 attack against a couple of models, maybe doing 3 or 4 damage against each. He will bounce off most Masters or Tanks. Now compare him to a dedicated top level Killer like the Viktoria’s. Viktoria of Blood on the charge does not usually bounce off things. With a premier MI7, positive attack flips, usually 4 AP, ignoring armour/hard to wound/incorporeal and a 3/4/6 damage spread. She does not bounce off stuff very much. Sure a Master with plenty of Soulstones and triggers will survive (Pandora or Dream or Collete) but being hit by a buffed up Vik (which is fairly easy to set up) hurts. There is always a small moving bubble of empty space round her on the board I find as opponents stay out of her way till the time they can kill her. No one avoids Yan Lo. Likewise, Lady J, Lilith, McMourning, Perdita, Leviticus, Lord Chompy Bits, Teddy, Mechanical Rider, Nothing Beast are all leagues above Yan Lo in terms of doing damage. Even a Freikorp Trapper is more reliable especially with critical strike.
Tank. Ah yes, but he can take a punch. If he is incorporeal he can become effectively 24 wounds and a perhaps even have Impossible to Wound. Plus he has a decent soulstone cache as long as he isn’t summoning. He can’t heal himself and he has no armour but he is fairly tough to take down. The problem is that the opponent doesn’t usually have to bother because Yan Lo is rarely doing enough in a game for it to matter, or they are running Von Schill, Leviticus, Pandora or Viktoria of Blood in which case they can kill him with a couple of AP. Still he is reasonably tanky so is not a bad choice for getting to the end of the game and drifting through scenery into the opponents deployment zone (which is great if you want your Master doing a job that a fast scheme runner can do).
Support, Buffer. Yan Lo has two basic buffs. He can heal using Instill Youth. A fairly decent heal. Using a (1) Action, he can hand out the Spirit Characteristic & armour 2 to a model for each point of chi he wants to spend and then if he has Spirit Ascendant upgrade he can then take a (2)AP and make up to 3 spirits in 8 take a 1AP melee action. That sounds great on paper but honestly look at how resource intensive that is. It would be a rare day when you get 3 spirits in range, so 2 or 1 is more par for the course. Typically this will be Izamu and a Onryo but one day I’d love to do this to Mr Graves. Still compare this with the other buffing masters like Collete or Nicodem or Molly or Kaeris or Shenlong. He doesn’t have great pushes or movement shenanigans like Collete like Dreamer. He doesn’t have great abilities to get scheme markers down.
Support, De-Buffer. These masters like Jack Daw, Hamelin, Lynch, or Mei Feng with Vent Steam etc Aimed at crippling your opponent or making the enemy defences weak or turning strong attacks into weak ones. Yan Lo doesn’t do this.
Summoner. Yan Lo has an interesting, fairly useful, but strictly limited summoning mechanic. Being able to bring back Izamu or Yin or Toshiro is pretty useful. Like all summoners, it is limited by corpse counters. It is also only useful when they are dead. Now compare that with Nicodem. If I’ve taken Resser Yan Lo, then it is fair to ask what he brings that Nicodem/Molly/Kirai/McMourning aren’t. When would I need to reach for Yan Lo instead of one of them. Nicodem is unquestionably a better summoner across the board. He is in another league. His summon pool is huge. He can burn Zombies to boost his already high casting, his summoning generally won’t come in with Slow and he can usually add positive to attack and damage flips. He straddles the line between summoner and buffer very well. The legendary ability to summon a fast punk zombie that can then companion activate is actually not too hard to get off.
Am I being too harsh? Well in a way. I love playing Yan Lo. He is cinematic, and I really like cackling as I give him incorporeal, but he is a slightly beefed up Henchman. It isn’t like you can’t play him or win with him. It is more frustrating that he is clearly a poor Master and a missed opportunity. A little more care in his design would have pushed him more squarely into mid-tier. He screams the need for either a bit more focus on his role so his attacks are actually a bit more deadly or his support is actually a bit more supportive. I get the feeling that he was supposed to be a Jack of All Trades who can adapt on the fly, but ultimately he’s like a chef who also runs the restaurant, serves the tables, selects the wines and does the accounts. Too many roles to let him shine at any.