Sunday, February 10, 2013

Warriors of Chaos, 8th ed. army book review

Warriors of Chaos - 'Now, what the hell am I gonna do with all these marauders?'

This weekend, I had the chance to sit down with some friends and compare some of our first impressions of the newly released “Warriors of Chaos” armybook, now updated for the 8th edition rules.
WoC was, to be brutally honest, one of the armies which I didn’t saw coming as a candidate for an update, considering how the brets, wood elves and to some degree; dwarves, still grumble and moan from their outdated hills. Still, Warriors was my very first side when I returned to WFB after a long hiatus, and I’d lie if I said I wasn’t thrilled to see what they’d done with them.

Where I’m coming from with this…
While it was my first army, it was likely also the fastest one to drop my interest due to several factors. While I had some good games of running in to chop things up; the obvious emphasis 8th edition put on blocks of infantry discouraged me from what I had originally hoped for. Big, brutal monstrous beings, tough as nails, dumb as snot and fierce as…well, chaos. Bear in mind; I loved chaos warriors and their model was a direct trip down to my memories of Warriors of Darkness from Hero Quest, but all good things in moderation.
Back then, a lot of people would laugh at my plans for a dragon ogre unit, or massing trolls. While some claimed it to be “not a stillborn idea”, often they would admonish me with marauder-block-propaganda and the coolness of dual war shrines with chosen-stars.

I suppose this was viable, yes. After all, I wished for something to chop up stuff in melee and my friend who dug this approached was a beast to compete with, once he rolled out his full selection. On top of that, I suppose I grew more or less annoyed by some of the frustrating elements in the army. Stuff like Infernal Puppet and Infernal Gateway (…there’s just something about those infernal things…) felt maybe a tad too brutal, just as I often have reservations against utilizing the 13th spell in my Skaven army. But of course, this all comes down to personal style.

What I had hoped for in the new book was the same effect I saw regarding Vampire Counts. A revamp of the army that leaves more options and possibilities for build diversity, and far less mandatory picks. And again, I realize there really are two ways to go about with this. You either make the inferior stronger, or the superior weaker.

At least that’s what I thought. I was, in fact, thrilled to see how they managed a little bit of both.

Something old and something new
The opinions on the new WoC have been diverse, as is custom whenever a new armybook arrives. Inevitably, you’re bound to step one someone’s toes, especially those who took a great delight in the cookie-cutter lists of old. As for the new WoC, I can see the frustrated points of view, though I am personally excited for the changes. But let’s be pessimistic first.

On the downside, a snide nickname for this book could be “But what am I gonna do with my 100 marauder models now?” as these guys have taken a hit, and reasonably so. They are no longer severely underpriced, but instead come at a initial cost of 6 (making them actually more expensive than a clan rat…) and kitting them out with mark and flail/hw easily bring them up above 10 pts./model. The downside is in this regard obvious, likely delivering a hit to their frequency and/or volume on the battlefield.

Chaos Warriors didn’t take it quite as hard, rummaging around for a steady base cost of 14 per model, but for me at least should be compared to the new, interesting Forsaken. Basically, warriors so twisted and deformed that their performance on the battlefield is randomized. For five points more and less WS you’re suddenly set for D3 attacks/model with frenzy and immunity to psychology, and an array of abilities each turn, such as killing blow or regeneration. Time will tell, I assume, how these compare to their more stable brethren, although one should know their official miniatures are ugly as sin. Staying in line with the fluff, of course, but…yuck.

A lot of stuff is as you know it on the surface, really. The faithful hounds, chaos spawns and chaos knights are still eager to serve, with some new tweaks. Hounds can be upgraded with poison and scales, spawns now get beneficial effects exclusively to them according to what mark you give them, and chaos knights have taken a slight nerf, now having to buy their ensorcelled weapons. I suppose they really needed that.
Even the Hellcannon is rolling solidly along the old, familiar trail, still with its monster rule and dwarf-saves, except now it features a 5+ ward and some tweaks to its misfire table. It’s still a very good monster/shooter worth taking along.

Among the really new stuff are the Hellstriders of Slaneesh; a regiment of marauders riding demonic ostriches that grow stronger the more units they annihilate. They come at some price, point-wise, and I honestly have no idea about their uses. I don’t suppose I will field them much, as they honestly need to kill quite a lot in order to become good.

On to the great stuff, which is definitely there and addresses one of my original concerns for this army. The beasts.

The Fresh Prince
By now, the demon prince and the chimera both seem to be the definite winners of this book. The former not really being the most beloved child of chaos, GW likely realized they had too many of this guy on their shelves and decided to give everyone a reason to buy him. It’s now possible to field a WS 9, S6, T5 W4 unbreakable flyer with terror and a 5+ ward save that regains a wound on 6’es in battle and throws a -1 to every model’s WS that wishes to fight him. The latter is important, as it makes him a juggernaut against puny lesser beings and tough as nails. Oh, and he can also be a level 4 caster that has a chance to increase his wounds and toughness by 1 permanently, for every spell he gets through. Or you can make it so he rerolls all ward saves on a 1.
This guy is now a slaughterhouse on wings; one that should be duly feared and I look forward to see the possible combinations of equipment and gifts people can come up with as time passes.

On the other hand you have the chimera. For a little under 300 points you get a flying monster with 7-9 S6 attacks with poison, a fire breath weapon and regeneration. With a toughness of 5 and 4 wounds, this is a force to be reckoned with, especially as it’s only a special choice and thus leaves room for all the juicy rare choices. Tag it along with a flying general prince to compensate for its low LD-score and you’re going places. I have a feeling we will see this beast a lot. If only GW had released a better looking model.
The flying, unkillable chaos lord is back in his full glory, if not more. This time around, it’s possible to build up a guy fully clad in armor and shield, and besides that can only be wounded on a 2 on his ward save.  Or instead, throw him in a regiment of skullcrushers, the new monstrous cavalry that now come at a steep price but will tear apart units if you can navigate them through the gunfire. For this purpose, the new blasted standard has a chance to decrease the strength of any shooting attack by half, on a 2+. Of course, on a fatal 1 this is doubled and pain is inevitably incoming.

This is just the first entry of the beasts, however, as trolls and dragon ogres have grown in appeal. Trolls, especially, can be kitted out with two hand weapons for as little as 38 points/model and with their leader, Throgg, become core choices. Thus, the option for going beast and troll heavy is certainly there, seeing as Throgg provides you with an additional LD bubble of 8, to all beasts and monsters within 18’’.
Some people, me included, are adamant in our belief that the new dragon ogres are a viable force. Yet, seen from an objective point of view, I remain doubtful. While they can indeed be hard hitters with their 3 attacks of possibly S7, they’re still stuck with an armor save of 4+ and nothing more.  Add in their T4 and initial cost of 60 pts/model and I keep wondering whether the points could be spent elsewhere.
I haven’t lost faith in these guys, however, and I’ll at least try to make them work to the best of my abilities. I just don’t think we should expect miracles.

On the contrary, the new gorebeast chariots seem interesting. For 130 points you get a fast moving unit with five attacks of mixed S4 and 5 attacks with equally decent weapon skill. Also, you can mark it and all its impact hits are resolved with the Killing Blow-rule. There might be some solid options in this.

Bigger. Better. Uglier.
While these beasts make an appealing entrance on stage, I can’t help but feel that the two new flagships, The Mutalisk and the Slaughterbrute, fall short in comparison. These were the mandatory two big, new ‘miniatures’ released for the occasion, and none seem especially interesting. The slaughterbeast is a simple big, hardhitting brute bound to a character and not much else, although I am tempted to try him out in a game. The Mutalisk is a strange being that takes delight in forcing toughness tests on others, possibly making them mutate with improved (yes, improved) stats while decreasing others. It can also grant them fear or stupidity, or even spawn new chaos spawns for you. I’m split about this one, but I don’t imagine I’ll see many people use it. Also, both of these miniatures aren’t really that good looking.

The great eye is ever watchful!
It wouldn’t be proper Chaos if the Eye of the Gods table wasn’t in effect, and you’ll be pleased to know it’s running smoothly. This time it’s more true to the concept with more extreme effects in either ends; the lower tier possibly turning your well equipped lord into a chaos spawn at its worst, and on the other end turning your lowly chaos champion into a demon prince. It’s chaos in its essence, mixed with a little bit of trolling, seeing as one of the results on the table is +1 to ballistic skill….

Then enter the War Shrine. We’ve been having long discussions about this and personally, I’m still not sure. It’s far from the brilliant pick we were used to, back in the days, and now use a bound spell to buff D3 models in the near vicinity, granting them a free roll on the Eyes table. On the topside, it allows every model that rolls on the table to use three dice and discard one. In battle it’s far from defenseless, and 125 points don’t seem like a whole lot. I suppose time will also tell in this regard, although I’m not entirely sold on this front either.

But wait! There is more! Spells and trinkets.
Infernal Puppet is gone. We can all breathe easily now. In that line of news, so is Infernal Gateway as we knew it; no longer able to scoop up entire regiments like a vacuum cleaner. Instead it delivers a hail of blows, which can be nasty in itself.
The new lores aren’t spectacular, but decent. Nurgle especially seems good with a healthy (unhealthy?) mix of hexes, augments and damage. The trait allowing your caster to increase his toughness and wounds by 1 on a 6 rolled for every spell is particularly nice.

Tzeentch, however, is the odd one out in this book, and not for the better. The majority of these spells come with the Warpflame rule, that forces all enemies wounded by them to make a toughness test of suffer D3 wounds with no armor save. The quirky point, however, is that should they succeed, they are blessed with the regeneration special rule (or have their regeneration increased, in case they’ve already got it).  Again, this is interesting, but I’m not sure how well it will be received by the community in large, when compared to some of the other lores. Slaneesh brings some solid hexes to the table, specializing in slowing and punishing leadership tests. It also features a nifty frenzy-granting or bolstering spell.

With the new demonic gifts come a variety of new options, such as Magic Resistance (3), Flaming attacks or an impressive D6+3 multiple attacks stat. On top of that comes the items, featuring the nasty Hellfire Sword that on a 6 detonates a slain enemy into another D6 S4 hits to its unit. Another sword turns slain enemy characters into chaos spawns on a 4+. Even the lowly Chalice of Chaos has 1/6th chance of turning a character into a demon prince for free.

Conclusion. Uncle Archaon wants you!
I haven’t even had the chance to touch much upon the special characters, simply because I haven’t had the chance to see many of them in actions. In the 6000 points game, Throgg was sniped by a catapult in turn one and Sigvald ran away with a unit of Chosen. Throgg especially seems as viable as I had hope for, and will make a frequent appearance in my army from now on.  His miniature is also pretty awesome.

There is no denying that changes have hit the Warriors of Chaos and forced us into another way of thinking about the army. From a perspective of power and competitive army building, I imagine Demon Princes will dominate the lists heavily, along with chimeras and plenty of chariots. From a personal perspective, I intend to focus heavily on beasts and monsters, with trolls and throgg making a solid backbone of my army along with the dragon ogres, supported by a prince and whatever chimeras I can squeeze in. I’ll have to get back to you on that, as I get to play some battles.

I’ll honestly say WoC needed some changes, and the initiatives taken in this regard seem good for the large part. There seem to be fewer mandatory picks and the addressing of the marauders, gateway and puppet seems wise to my eyes.

While there are still units and troops that seem strangely and/or sadly useless, I hope this is a trend GW will keep up in their upcoming books. Till then, you might very well be pleased with the changes done to WoC. It’s still a very potent army capable to deal out some pain, even if you try and stick to the old ways of mass infantry. You just have to work a bit more for it.


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