Friday, April 1, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green (Review of O&G Book)

Long Time contributor to this blog and all around great guy, Drew McLean (The Man I DJ with) has taken the time to write his thoughts on the new Orc and Goblin book. Drew is a long time green skin general and these are his thoughts:

The first look at the new Orc and Goblins book will tell you that this is something new; it's obviously a hard-cover, and looking inside it's in full colour. The artwork in this book is superb, even if many pieces are recycled from previous books/box covers. Aside from these changes in format, the layout of the book is much the same as army books have always been, so old users should find it easy to navigate. The unit summary has even been moved to the back page, making it quick to locate (as it should have always been).

Most of the army remains largely unchanged, the two obvious new inclusions being mangler squigs and the awesome Arachnarok spider. The former are essentially fanatics turned up to 11, whilst the latter is an absolutely massive (fitting on the equivalent of three chariot bases) new monster. These new inclusions both seem fairly potent, but the mangler squigs seem a far more attractive prospect because of their ability to be steered to an extent, and being relatively cheap.

Changes to the list include making regular orc boys dearer, black orcs cheaper (and now immune to psych), most other infantry remained the same price, whist many of the whacky auxiliaries became a bit cheaper (including trolls, giants, doom divers, pump wagons and goblin chariots). Trolls have become special choices (but can be upgraded to rare), whilst stone throwers have been changed to rare choices. Most special rules remain unchanged or similar.

The army itself has a few new rules across the board; namely choppas, animosity and Waaaagh! Choppas now offer a +1 strength bonus in the first round of combat to any weapon wielded by an orc, including magic weapons. This means an orc with a great weapon will have a +3 strength bonus in the first round of combat. Animosity reverts to only activating on a 1, and now includes a chance of attacking friendly units again. Waaagh can only be called by an orc warboss now (not goblins, or lesser heros) and only offers a bonus to combat resolution, taking out the bonus move.

Magic items have been reduced in quantity, suggesting that 8th edition is pushing for most armies to rely on common magic items from now on. The 8 items include two magic weapons, three standards, a suit of armour and a wand. Some we've seen before, some are new. More on these later. Spells are again divided into two lists, one for goblins and one for orcs. Many of the spells are back from the previous edition, with either a new name or an altered effects. Some spells seem fairly effective, but others seem highly situational.

When I opened the new book, I was impressed by the quality of production. 8th edition has certainly seem a high standard so far. When I looked a little deeper, I was a little disappointed.

Having played the game for some time now, I have noticed some distinct rules creep since the High Elves were released early in 7th edition. As a greenskin player, this got me down a bit, but I endured. I saw High Elves come with their universal always striking first. I saw unstoppable Vampire magic. I saw Dark elves with ridiculous amounts of ranged attacks and uncanny mobility. I saw Warriors of Chaos bringing spells that could wipe out an entire unit on one in twelve casts. I saw Lizardmen with Slann that could cast their way out of anything. Skaven had a spell that could just roll away your units, replacing them with rats, not to mention the monster that could tear shreds off its enemies, resist prodigious amounts of damage, then stand back up again if it was finally destroyed. Surely the orcs were in for something BIG!

Sadly, this was not to be. The orc list has not been bolstered by anything like those mentioned above. The Arachnarok, impressive as it looks, could never stand toe-to-toe with a Hellpit Abomination, despite costing around 50 points more. The catapult on its back makes its victims always strike last, but of course you can't fire on a unit in combat. The giant was reduced in cost by a mere 5 points, making it now slightly less over-costed than the Dark Elf hydra.

Black orcs have become cheaper, by 1 point, but in the climate of 8th edition, I see Immunity to Psychology as a liability. Black orcs are already all but immune to panic, and it is so hard to fail a leadership 8 test with a re-roll thanks to the Battle Standard. The only real effect of being immune to psychology is the inability to flee a charge.

Regular orc boys, long regarded as being over-costed, are now 1 point dearer. This hardly seems like value in today's 8th edition, when most enemies have access to large units of strength 5 troops. They are still nearly as likely to stand around and do nothing for a given turn, so are hardly considered reliable. The choppa bonus now extends to spears, but those are still as undesirable as they always have been.

The Waaagh can now only be called by an orc warboss, meaning many armies have been cut-off from that bonus. It now only affect orcs (not goblins), and it now amounts to a paltry bonus point of combat resolution. Gone are the days of a surprise jump on the enemy. Now, when you are likely facing steadfast opponents, you gain access to combat resolution points. This is hardly a fair trade-off.

Magic spells are a mixed bunch. When I saw the college decks in the 8th edition rule book, I was convinced this was the scope of things to come for all races. A comparison between The Curse of the Bad Moon and Purple Sun shows that this is not the case. Purple Sun kills outright on the failure of an initiative test, with no saves of any kind allowed. The Curse of the Bad Moon causes one wound on a failed characteristic test and allows ward saves.

The magic items list is, by far, the most disappointing area of the book. I could cope with the low numbers of items. In fact, I anticipated that this would make all the items seem brilliant and would encourage intense theming of armies. Instead I saw The Battleaxe of the Last Waagh, a 100 point item that adds a whopping D6 to both strength and attacks characteristic, at the cost of half that number in weapon skill. With an initiative of 4, and at-best an armour save of 2+, the warboss who equips this axe has a reasonable probability of getting killed before getting to attack.

The other magical axe, the Axe of Stunty Smashin', is a 50 point, +1 strength, +1 attacks item. On a warboss, this item would be reasonable, as it could be backed up by some defence. The axe comes with a racial bonus against dwarves, which is something I never consider. Being a tournament player, any benefit that does not work against everyone is non-existent to me.
The various magical standards are mostly restricted to goblin Battle Standard bearers, usually not worth taking when there is access to orcs equivalents. Additionally, the effects are also restricted to goblins, making them truly goblin-army-only items. The only magical orc standard is Mork's War Banner. For 100 points, the bearer (and by extension, his unit) benefit from a magical resistance of D6. Today, most of the spells to watch out for are either hexes (to which magical resistance does not apply), or spells that allow no saves anyway. 100 points is far too much to pay for something that is rarely of any benefit.
The Armour of Gork adds +D3 toughness to the bearer, but for 100 points is too expensive for what it does. The Skull Wand of Kaloth now only affects a single model once per combat phase, with the same effect as before (fail a leadership test or die outright). With re-rolls to all leadership tests being commonplace, this makes the Skull Wand less attractive. To double its points cost to the point of only being equipable by a lord-level caster is ludicrous.

The last item, the shrunken head is equipable by savage or shamen only. It increased the value of any savage orcs ward saves in the bearer's unit by 1. This is the only potentially useful item for an orc army, and only just. It has a similar effect to the Mark of Tzeench from the Warriors of Chaos book, except that it only affects savage orcs, it must be carried by someone (and can hence be killed/removed) and costs much more.

The book has made some redeeming point reductions to some of the more exotic parts of the army. Pump wagons are now more effective. wolf chariots are much cheaper and can be fielded in units of up to 3 and mangler squigs are just plain nasty. However, having only a few stand-out attractive options means that we will simply see more of these things included in every army. Greenskin infantry has not been given any sort of boost, and so we will continue to see greenskin armies consisting of an orc leader, minimal infantry and a wide variety of goblin attachments. This continues to fail to live up to my vision of massed orcs infantry sweeping over all who oppose them. You know, the kind of thing you read about in all of the flavour-text in the book? It seems I'll have to wait at least until the 9th edition orc book to have this realised.


  1. Drew, what are you doing? You're badmouthing the new orcses! :-O

    You've omitted a couple of the other points-savings in the book. The Big'Un upgrade is half the cost it used to be. That is a big deal, especially coupled with the additional hand weapons being a point cheaper. It means Savage Orc Big'Uns with 2 choppas are 3 points per model cheaper than they used to be. This makes fielding a horde of them, bolstered by a shaman with the shrunken head, a very viable (and nasty) option.

    The army has a lot of units that can hit very hard, however they're hindered by low initiative. So they need to either field the units in big enough numbers to absorb the damage before striking, or they need to cast the Goblin itchy-scratchy spell to drop the initiative of their opponents. If you can pull this off, they will dice most things. And if you can get into the side or rear and cast Sneaky Stabbin', it will be a whole other world of hurt.

    I like the new book. Almost everything in the book has a viable use, even if some things (Mangler Squigs) are more useful than others (Giants).

    You're asking for the army creep you are complaining about to continue in the new books. But bear in mind that 8th ed has done more to level all the armies out there than anything in in the last few editions, and that makes it the perfect point to stop the creep, going forwards. Whether GW will do this, I don't know. But if it's ever going to happen, now is the time.

    - Greg

  2. Thanks for the reply Greg. Yeah, I complain about rules creep, but after so long I've come to accept it, and even expect it. They also had a good opportunity to fix rules creep at the start of 7th ed, and it seemed they had until the High Elves came out.
    I still think some stuff in the book is just not worth taking when you stand it next to other things in the book; perhaps I was just unlucky that the things I like to use fall into the less useful category. That said, I'm sure I'll try to give the SO big'un horde a look in at some stage- I'm sure the new plastics will site nicely with my existing unit.
    I still stand by my comments that all of the magic items are at best overpriced, and at worst useless. Why even bother to publish these eight?
    I look forward to talking about this in person, if only I could get to the club! So busy right now.

    - Drew