I thought it might be time to do a detailed review of Yan Lo now that I’ve been playing him for a good 6 months. I picked him up because I loved the model and fluff. I’ve run him in a ton of causal games and also at a couple of tournaments. I feel I’ve got enough of a handle on him to give him a review.
Now this is my own view, other opinions will vary! As a start point, I’ll put my cards on the table and say I am not a very good player. I have won a few games, even at tournaments with Yan Lo but I will never crack the top half of a tournament. I usually push my opponents quite hard to win, but it rarely troubles their scores. Having said that, I think I’ve picked up enough and played enough to evaluate Yan Lo. As with nearly every model made by Wyrd, Yan Lo is perfectly usable. With a few very rare exceptions (like Oiran) there aren’t really any completely non-viable models in the game. However, just because a model can be used and even win, it doesn’t make it good.
Also, I’m not going to settle for “but you could add this model and then he is fine because of the great synergy” If a model has synergy great, but it shouldn’t have to be used to simply make a Master more viable. If it is specifically designed that way, that's different (e.g. Nicodem and Mortimer). I do know that Masters don’t exist in a vacuum but other models are only considered where the Masters skill is making them better, not where they have to make up for the short comings of the Master. I’ll bend that rule slightly for the Viktorias as they are a package as is Dreamer. I think you get where I’m coming from.
In part 1 I’ll give a run down of the various things he can do. In part 2 I’ll lay out the various roles I think Masters can fulfil. Finally I’ll look at Yan Lo against those roles and see how he fits and his overall effectiveness.
So Yan Lo himself.
He’s a master with a 4ss cache. He has the following stats. He can also gain Chi. Chi can be used to boost his Ca. He can hold unlimited Chi but only use +3 to boost his Chi or as part of the Df/Wp trigger if he takes the Fortify Spirit upgrade.
He can get Chi when a model within 8 is killed by a model that it considers an enemy (and be honest these will usually be your crew dying), by discarding a card at the beginning of his activation, or by doing severe damage with his Spirit Barrage attack (you won’t ever do severe with this attack). He can have it transferred to him in some rare circumstances from the Soul Porter or Chiaki.
There is a popular method of getting Chi by double walking a wastrel (which is then double defensive) then charging and killing it. You then have a corpse marker for Toshiro and 2 extra chi. Some people think you could kill you own model and get Chi when the Wastrel dies. You can't because Yan Lo would be a friendly model to the wastrel so won't get the Chi when it dies. You would still get Chi from flipping or cheating severe damage on the Spirit Barrage attack, and you've moved your charge so you get 1 extra chi not 2, but you do still get the corpse marker for Toshiro. Alternatively, do it to an Illuminated and then you can do severe damage twice. Since your max severe is 4 and the Illuminated it armour 1 with 7 wounds, you won't kill it and can then heal it up with instill youth.
His attack actions are
· Spirit Barrage (1AP). This gives you a casting attack that is either 1” melee or 12” shooting. It has no inbuilt positive flips. The only trigger is that you get a Chi+1 if you do severe damage. You will never do that with this attack. It has a weak damage of 2, which is what you would mostly flip on a double neg damage flip.
· Lightening Dance (1AP). This is the high point of Yan Lo. It is the incredibly useful repositioning move that is the only really great thing about him. It is a Ca 5 action that targets Wp. It can be boosted to Ca 8 if you have enough Chi. That actually isn’t too difficult to get by mid game, which is when you want to use the action. You place Yan Lo into base with the model, then move the model to a friendly within 8 and LOS (including Yan Lo himself). It is a place (which is always good) and it can have a fairly high cast. So far so good. The down side is that high WP models (Misaki, Collete, Nicodem, Pandora, Lucius) will probably be able to stop if going off at least once. Plus those Chi+3 used to boost the casting are also desperately needed
He also has a number of tactical actions. These are
Transcendence (1). Lower your Chi to give out the Spirit characteristic and Armour 2. This is quite useful, but will burn through Chi quickly. It is a one action that affects a friendly within 8" for each point of Chi so you can get even 5 or 6 models with armour 2 if you have enough Chi (you don't).
Ascendent (0). Simples You spend 1-3 Chi to attach an ascendent upgrade, ignoring normal upgrade restrictions. You will really need to do this at lease once. If you are doing this you can't use the heal though so get it done early.
Instill Youth (0). This is a crackingly good heal. You get to heal a point of damage for each point you go over the target number of 12, up to a max of 4 damage healed. It is really good. No major complaints about this one, but do remember it is a (0) action so if you need lots of heals, a Friekorp Librarian can heal up to 3 damage as a 1 action so can either heal two models or potentially heal 6 dmg on one model. Combine the 2 and you can potentially heal up to 10 wounds a turn. Nice.
If you purchase the Fortify Spirit upgrade (1ss) he can use his Chi total to boost his Df/Wp if he flips (or cheats/stones) a Tome. He can hold unlimited Chi but only use +3 to boost his Chi or as part of the Df trigger. Now when some players first here this it sounds broken. “Hey he’s a Df/Wp 8 Master. That’s so broken.” I’m fairly sure that this is what went wrong during play testing. If you don’t take this upgrade, you have a Df/Wp 5 Master. If you do, then you need a tome (stone or in hand). It is very useful to be able to duel Pandora on a WP 8. If you really fancy it you can throw in Spirit of the 5 Dragons (+1 WP) and add an Oiran (+1 WP) for an obscene WP 10.
Return a dead ancestor to play. Sounds great and re-spawning Yin can be fantastic at the end of the game, but it only applies to models you originally bought. Also, if you just saw Bishop blow through Izamu in 2AP, bringing Izamu back will just result in Bishop doing the same thing. It is a really good upgrade but it doesn't make your ancestors invincible.
Gives you a fairly rubbish melee attack of 5 that can't benefit from chi. It is range 2" and has a 3/4/5 damage track. It does do damage on disengaging strikes. But wow that's pathetic for a master as a combat upgrade. Mostly used with the Hung Po assault from the Bone Ascendent upgrade. That upgrade needs 3 Chi but nets you an action where you place within 8 and make a 1 attack against every enemy in range. That attack gets + attack and damage flips. I'd skip this upgrade and use Hung Po assault with Spirit Barrage. Place attacks are great and whilst Spirit Barrage is a 2 weak damage, it will be casting 8 with Chi so you'll be fairly likely to put two hits on rather than fluffing with 2 melee 5 attacks from Brutal Khakkhara.
Ok, so that gives a gallop through how he (doesn't) works. In part two I'll do an evaluation of him on the table.