Bringing their martial prowess and eagerness to prove themselves to the battlefield, the Shaolin Warrior Monks are a dangerous unit that bring a whole lot of fun and utility into the Yu Jing force. Underestimate them and to your amazement they will smash face, overestimate them and they will die a horrible death.
I was unsure whether to get Monks at first for my first warband unit and it was a really difficult decision between them and the Kuang Shi. In the end the utility of smoke grenades and their insane CC ability won me over though and I took the plunge. Needless to say they haven’t disappointed me and have done incredible game changing things! Painting them was very enjoyable and I really enjoyed painting the sweeping robes and the faces, this was the first time I used a wet palette and I was really pleased with how it turned out on the flesh and also on the jade weaponry.
So who are the Shaolin Warrior Monks?
The State Empire Army has been able to integrate Shaolin warrior monks by virtue of an old treaty between the Wan Hou Monastery and the Yu Jing Government. In this treaty, the Wan Hou Monastery promised to provide the Yu Jing military with a mobile attack force in exchange for funding and tax exemptions. Shaolin monks practice Zen Buddhism and are outstanding martial artists. As the entirety of their training takes place inside their monastery, they are less than stellar with firearms, but in hand-to-hand combat they are nigh unbeatable. The strict discipline and rigorous training of their temple makes them instinctive fighters, fast and deadly. In combat, a Shaolin monk is always ready: he clears his mind and moves without inertia, prepared to spring in any direction. The Yu Jing Army uses the Shaolin as light assault infantry, spearheading attacks to break and disband enemy formations, a task they carry out with equal parts breathtaking beauty and lethal efficiency.
An interesting contract…where government interests and State religion collide. The Shaolin Warrior Monks hail from a monastery that is effectively funded by the government and gain tax cuts in exchange for troops. Shady dealings aside the Shaolin certainly live up to their fluff and are incredibly fast and deadly thanks to their impetuous/irregular orders and their great ability to avoid damage via smoke grenades, it is quite easy to imagine Shaolin monks performing all sorts of acrobatic moves and flips all over the place during a gunfight.
‘The Old Treaty’
So what does the Yu Jing Government gain in exchange for all of this funding? Let’s take a look at the profile:
CC22 / MA L3 / Shock CCW + other CCWs
The Monks are absolutely brutal in close combat, as standard they will get +2 to their CC dice roll thanks to being CC 22. Using Martial Arts level 3 you can effectively pump up their CC ability to 25 while giving your opponent a -3 modifier to whatever they do. This means you get +5 to your dice roll in CC and if the final result takes you over 20 then you critically hit! That’s a 25% chance to crit as opposed to a 5% chance normally. A monk can stand toe to toe with the best close combat specialists in almost every other army and still come out on top. Against anyone who is not a CC specialist Monks just kung fu chop them to death pretty quickly, having access to MA1 and 2 also gives you the option to increase your damage if you feel pretty confident about winning the roll already.
The standard CCW weapon for the Monk is the Shock CCW which is great against the many 1W models we find in Infinity. Nothing hurts the opponent more than CCing their expensive 40pt unit who only has 1W on his profile and wiping him off the table. There are also other CCW options but these come at an increased cost and with a different weapon loadout, if you want to keep the cost down it is recommended to avoid these unless you really want AP or DA for some specific reason. Shock CCW is usually sufficient but if you plan on running your Monks at something heavily armoured like HI or a TAG then AP or DA is not a bad idea. You would need to plan ahead though to use this.
PH 13 / Kinematika L1
Monks boast a pretty decent PH of 13, meaning that in close combat a hit from a monk is the same damage as a combi rifle, ouch! This also makes them pretty good at dodging but even better at throwing smoke in the active and reactive turns. Within 8″ the Monks can put down a smoke grenade on PH 16 which is great high number for avoiding attacks. Roll high and most enemy shooters will struggle to hit the Monk and also provide smoke cover to boot.
Kinematika L1 also gives the Monks an extra boost in speed, this can be used to try and gain total cover from an enemy or you could use it offensively to push 3″ closer to the enemy in the reactive turn. Pushing closer is my favourite option if smoke is not viable because of an enemy with MSV2+, the closer you can get the better.
WIP 14 / Religious Troop
With WIP 14 Monks are actually great at making discover checks, these clear minded individuals are very effective counters to enemy camo/skirmishers and even with modifiers will usually have a 50% chance of successfully discovering. Another great aspect about their WIP is that it is useful for doing intuitive attacks with the chain rifle on camo markers or through smoke. Since intuitive attacks use the WIP attribute the Monks are pretty good at pulling this off and with a large template too, intuitive attacks have no negative modifiers too so the Monks WIP 14 really shines here.
Being a religious troop also means you have no worries of the Monks falling back and ignores the Retreat! rules which can be very handy in causing last minute damage or disruption with smoke. There is still the option of trying to pass a religious test if you really want to keep the Monk alive by going behind total cover if he survives an impact.
The cheapest Monks come in at 5pts but also come with the best loadout ironically – Chain rifles. Chain rifles are just amazing, they are a huge auto hit template which is really important considering the Monks poor BS 9. Monks can put these to use extremely well since they engage the enemy up close anyway, they can turn the Monks into very nasty units who knock a lot of guys unconscious in just one well placed shot. With them being only 5pts it is worth chain rifling most of the time even at risk of the Monk’s death as whatever he hits is probably worth more than him anyway! Chain rifles also synergise perfectly with the Monks smoke grenades as they can place smoke grenades and then use intuitive attack through the smoke on their WIP 14. This weapon also makes Monks effective flank guards against AD and flanking troops.
Nothing is quite as satisfying as running out and chain rifling a bunch of enemies and then passing all subsequent ARM rolls!
It’s worth mentioning AVA, the more Monks the better! The more of these guys you take the more effectively they can support not only each other but also the rest of your force too and give the enemy multiple threat angles to worry about. Because of their impetuous orders it is worth taking as many Monks as possible to ensure some make it alive to the enemy to cause chaos. It’s incredibly satisfying to have a battlefield full of smoke for your Monks to freely move behind and to cover your more expensive units from AROs. The more Monks you have the more disruption you will cause to your enemy and the more pressure they will feel to have to deal with them.
Did I mention how cheap these guys are? You can get all of the above for a meagre 5pts each! They are insanely cheap and they almost always make their points back by either costing the enemy orders, taking something out more expensive than themselves or providing support. The most expensive Monk is with the DA CCW but even then that only weighs in at 12pts. I have yet to really try out the combi rifle loadouts but I almost always try to make room for at least 3-4 chain rifle Monks in my lists which only comes to 15 – 20pts.
Part of the reason Shaolin Warrior Monks are so cheap is because of their training, they are not only irregular troops but also extremely impetuous. Monks act on instinct and don’t follow conventional tactics from their commanders, instead they put their old martial arts mastery to the test and seek to engage the foe face to face!!
Extremely Impetuous – The Blessing and the Curse
At first being extremely impetuous can seem like a major weakness of the Monks, and in one sense it is. But it also their greatest strength when utilised correctly.
The impetuous order means one of the Monks’ skills MUST be towards the closest enemy in the most efficient path possible, even if that means drawing line of fire to a whole bunch of enemies. The curse of impetuousness is that the Monk loses any cover bonuses so cannot claim partial cover, it also exposes the Monks to great danger into sometimes overwhelming odds meaning certain death. However these weaknesses can be minimised by careful positioning and deployment of the Monks. Positioning your Monks in total cover and away from corners will prevent them from running out around corners straight away, this gives you a chance to put down a smoke grenade as a second short skill of the order to cover the Monks irregular order later on or to use the smoke for someone else in your army – a troop with MSV2 for example who can see through it like the Bao Troops. Putting your Monks slightly further back in your deployment than your normal troops works well, but if the way is clear and there are no enemies in LoF during deployment, put them right up at the front!
Another thing to remember as well is that even though impetuous orders must be resolved before any of your other orders, you can still choose the activation order in which the impetuous orders are activated. This is handy as you can use one Monk’s impetuous order who is more safe to throw down smoke to a nearby Monk who may be in a dangerous position. The Monk that was in danger is now protected by the smoke from that first Monk. What at first seems like a weakness can actually be turned into a free order for the Monk almost! I look forward to the impetuous phase as a chance to throw some smoke for free and get a bit of free movement. Another way impetuous shines is when your Monks make it into CC as this allows you a free CC attack pretty much without even touching your regular order pool. Try to think of your impetuous orders as free orders and utilise them as such.
Irregular – Use me!
Another thing that keeps Monks cheap is that they are irregular. This can also look like a downside but actually it just means you will use the Monks more. If they were regular orders you might pump those orders into other units, but because they are irregular it means you should use them or lose them since no one else can use the irregular order. In a tight situation you can also change these orders into regular orders with command tokens if you want to push a Monk even further or to give the orders to someone else in the same pool. You could even convert them to regular and use them for co-ordinated orders if you are really starved! Since they are also impetuous this means you are always effectively going to be spending 2 orders on the Monks every turn unless they die.
This is a good thing as it brings them into the fight. Since the hot zone in Infinity is usually the midfield it does not take long for Monks to get into the midfield even if they are left in their own combat group. Left unhindered the Monks can effectively move up to 16″ across the board on their own without even touching your order pool. Over the course of 3 turns they can do even more, but I usually find they have reached the middle early in Turn 2, sometimes sooner if they dodge effectively.
Since you know your Monks will have to move in your turn and that they have their own orders to spend, use your instincts and plan ahead for them when it comes to deployment and also in what order you will activate them and where you will place smoke etc. A little bit of extra thought can pay off a lot with this unit.
‘Breathtaking beauty, lethal efficiency’
Combining all of these stats, skills and training together means the Monks become quite a multi faceted tool. I have seen Monks do some pretty insane things and take on some pretty insane odds and come out on top. Memorable moments for me are a Monk slapping down an Umbra Legate with his Shock CCW like he was a naughty child, tying up a Jotum for 2 turns and knocking off 2 STR points, knocking out half a link of Loup Garou in one chain rifle hit, intuitive attacking a croc man through smoke and knocking him unconscious, the list goes on….
Infinity is full of tactical depth so there are endless ways to use Shaolin Warrior Monks during a battle but here are my favourite ways:
Maximum Disruption / Speed bump
Used this way I like to throw my Monks directly at the enemy and cause as many problems as possible by throwing down smoke and getting the Monks near important objectives or positions. The aim is to just move the Monks up as safely as possible to cause as much damage as possible and wasting opponents orders. This tactic does not rely on Monks winning the game for you so just write them off as soon as the battle begins, if they kill anything then they have already made their worth. Getting the Monks into good positions causes headaches for your opponent and means they have to spend orders to deal with them. If it costs 2 orders for your opponent just to deal with that one Monk then the Monk has already earned his points, that is 2 less orders spent killing your important troops or taking objectives.
Since Monks can throw down smoke quite reliably they can be used as a cheap way to buy smoke cover. Using them in this way does not necessarily mean you need all 4 and can just take maybe 2, maybe even 1. But the more the better! I like to use the smoke in a few different ways. In the active turn I use the free smoke from the Monks for my MSV2 troops to use like the Bao Troops so that I can leverage the MSV2 against non visor troops. Another way is to use the smoke to cover the advance of expensive units or specialists towards certain objectives or positions. This is a great way to ensure safety for your precious Shang Ji hacker for example who can also use the smoke to perform intuitive attack with his flamethrower! Smoke can also be used offensively by throwing it on enemies so that you can move in CC units or units with templates. Also be careful not to screw yourself over with your own smoke in the active turn by blocking your own line of fire for unit without visors, your Yan Huo won’t thank you for it.
In the reactive turn I like to use smoke as a defense mechanic to protect not only the Monks but also important lanes of fire or my own units. One thing to be aware of with smoke is that MSV2 ignores it, so be aware of what enemy units have MSV2 during the battle.
Suicide / minesweepers
As Monks are cheap it is of little consequence if they die, therefore Monks sometimes get the unenviable task of clearing out mines. For example if there is an objective room packed with a couple of mines/e-maulers sending in a 5pt Monk to set them all off is worth it to clear the way for your heavy hitters. And who knows? If your Monk makes his dodge roll or ARM rolls it’s win/win! Especially if no enemies are around to ARO too. Struggling with mines a lot? Consider sending in the Monks. If you can eyeball it correctly Monks also have the chance to intuitive attack mines with the chain rifle but can be difficult without getting hit by the mine.
Sometimes I end up doing all 3 of the things above with my Monks in a game, it really does depend on what is happening in the turn and the game and where they are positioned. Usually I try to take 2,3 or 4 Monks depending on my list and on what synergies I want them to have with other troops. In this way, Monks truly do become a breathtaking beauty to watch and lethally efficient in what they do.
So what do you like about the Shaolin Warrior Monks? What are your experiences with them? Please leave a comment below and we can all share in the knowledge.