Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Orc and Goblin Army Book Review

Reader Health Warning! I am a casual Warhammer Player and accordingly this review is therefore not an in-depth critique on whether the new Army Book will transform the Orcs & Gobbos into a Tier 1, smash all before them, broken, tournament winning horde of an Army but rather a review on the style of the new book, differences between this edition and the previous editions and how touch feely it is
Hurrah my shiny, shiny copy of the Army Book has arrived (along with my set of the O&G Magic Cards).

As has been well publicised the immediate and obvious change from previous editions is the fact that this book has got a hardback cover. Also, following the trend set by the 8th Edition rulebook, each page is in full colour, with the pages having a sort of beige parchment colour as if it is trying to give the impression that you hold in your hands some sort of ancient tome of wisdom. And GW appear (although time will tell) to have made a real effort with the binding of the book. Previous editions were notorious for the binding to break and pages coming loose. This book has a stitched binding and altogether looks much more secure. It also has 112 pages in this edition compared to 80 pages in the previous edition. Consequently it is slightly chunkier than the old edition, but does have the advantage of making it easier to spot on your shelf, well at least until the other Army Books start to be released as well.

Can you spot the new book, Dear Reader?

The size and the weight of the new book does appear to have caused much debate and gnashing of teeth with certain players (mainly tournament players it has to be said) who complain that the book being heavier and bulkier than the previous edition that this will be a major hassle to carry to tournaments along with all their other gear. Well here is the proof

The old Army Book weighing in at a respectable 12ozs (apologies to all our metric users)

The new tome weighing in at a back breaking 24ozs.

Almost double the weight!!! Get a life guys - are you mice or men? Get over it - just think of the muscle development you will get carrying it about. However, we do not condone the use of the Army Book as a weapon for thumping your opponent's bonce with if he is irritating you.

The artwork it has to be said, is a mixture of old and new, the front cover being the work of honorary Kirriemuir Wargames Club member, Dave Gallagher. And the cover artwork from the last few editions also appear in the book, but there is plenty of new colour artwork to add flavour to the book, some of which are previous black and white prints but now with added colour. Some old hacks will be disappointed that there is not a lot more new artwork but I don't mind it, it's sort of comforting seeing some of the old faces again.The pictures accompanying the troop and character descriptions are in the main sepia coloured prints (again the ancient tome theme). And what a difference a bit of colour makes to the Old World map that appears on page 13.

Jeremy Vetock has taken over the writing duties from Mat Ward and as a result there is a an obvious difference in style - and this is no bad thing. Through necessity the background and history of the Orcs and Goblins has to be repeated from previous editions (no re-booting of history here) but Jeremy recounts it in his own way and embellishes and expands on it with the result that the "A Bloody History" section of the book now runs to 12 pages as opposed to 9.

Of course, while the fluff is always a good read, regardless of whether it's new to you or not, it is the Bestiary that will be the centre of most players' attention - this has now been expanded from 22 pages to 40 pages and reflects not only the fact that there are new fun toys for the Orc and Goblin player to play with but also the fact that some of the army specific rules have changed, for example, Animosity. Still potentially crippling for an Orc and Goblin player, the table now has the possibility of units causing harm to friendly units. If the Animosity roll is failed and the player then rolls a 1 on the Animosity Table then the unit failing the test will strike D6 (2D6 if a horde) S3 hits on the nearest, friendly unit which also suffers from Animosity within 12", and which has 5 or more models. That unit in turn gets to inflict it's own D6 (2D6 for horde) S3 hits back. both units then waste the rest of their turn squabbling and licking their wounds. A roll of 6 on the Animosity Table, however, gives the unit a bonus move towards the nearest visible enemy unit which it must then declare a charge on if possible to do so. Will it make a huge difference to an Orc and Goblin player? Well I guess it'll come down to the number of "1's" they roll!!

Choppas give a +1 Strength bonus in the first round of combat to mounted as well as foot models (Go Boar Boyz Go!)

Big Un's- still a maximum of 1 unit per army unless Gorbad is the Army General in which case any number of Boyz units can be upgraded

Fear Elves - Elves now cause fear in all Goblin and Night Goblin units regardless of the size of the Elvish Unit.

Calling a Waaagh! has also changed radically. Whereas previously it added bonuses to a unit's Animosity roll, now it can only be called by a Army General Warboss, once he has declared a charge. For the rest of that turn every unit of 5 or more Orc Boyz, Savage Orc Boyz, Black Orcs, Boar Boyz, Savage Orc Boyz and Big 'Uns add +1 to their combat resolution (CR) and the General's unit adds +D3 to it's CR.

All of the old favourite units are there, Orc Boyz, Goblins, Night Goblins and so on, although the word on the street is that Savage Orc Boyz are now a better core choice than your standard Orc Boyz. But it's the new units that catch the attention, the Mangler Squigs and of course the absolutely fabulous Arachnarok Spiders. Whether these new units will be any good in a fight, only time and many battle reports from players will tell but, I think any Orc and Goblin player will be tempted to field an Arachnarok on the basis it is just a pimping good model.

The familiar villainous/ renowned (depending on your viewpoint) characters such as Azhag the Slaughterer, Skarsnik, Warlord of the Eight Peaks and Grimgor Ironhide are back but now they are joined by Wurrzag, da Great Green Prophet (Savage Orc), Snagla Grobspit and Gittilla da Hunter (both Gobbos). However, another big change is in the amount of Shiny Stuff that the Orc and Gobbo characters can call upon. Although they will have access to the magic items listed in the main rulebook, only 8 Army specific magic items are available in the new book and the familiar items such as the Battleaxe of the Last Waagh! have different effects (roll D6, add that number to the bearer's attacks and strength that round but reduce the bearer's WS by an amount equal to half of that die roll- under the previous book the bearer's attacks and strength were increased by the rank bonus of the unit he was in).

Radical changes in the Waagh Spell list as well, for example, Brain Bursta is now a spell of Da Big Waaagh as is Foot of Gork (although the boosted version of the spell can have drastic consequences for the Shaman's own troops as on a roll of a 1, Gork stomps on a friendly unit, picked by the opponent!). However, the spells do retain that reckless, chaotic mayhem that Orc and Goblin Shamans are notorious for.

There a full 16 pages of photographs showing various painted models from the GW range, some of which appeared previously in the rule book, others in the March edition of the White Dwarf, but handy, I suppose being at least all gathered now in the one place.

The final section of the book, deals with the Army list choices which, of course now reflect the changes made by 8th Edition with regard to army composition. Snotlings now become a core choice, Orc Boyz are now 6 points per model as opposed to 5, Arrer Boyz now 7 points as opposed to 6, Goblin Wolf Riders are now 10 points as opposed to 12. Orc Boar Boyz are now a 16 points a model, down from 22, although they are no longer automatically equipped with spears and shield (4 pts in total). Trolls, however, are now classed a special unit rather than rare and are 5 points cheaper at 35 points. The Goblin Rock Lobber now becomes a rare choice and is now 85 points as opposed to 70 points and it now costs an extra 10 points to add an Orc Bully to the crew (as opposed to 5 previously). The Arachnarok is a rare choice (no surprise there!) and it's base cost is a hefty 290 points.

At the end of the book is the Handy Summary chart giving all the stats of the characters, heroes, shamans and troop types. There also a couple of colour templates for the Foot of Gork spell and the Fallen Giant template. Sensibly, GW have made these available for download from their webpage.

I have only scratched the surface of the changes made to the Army by the new book. Orc and Goblin players are going to have a fun time experimenting with these changes and no doubt many words will be written in the forums until there is a consensus on the optimum build - but then again maybe the Orcs & Gobboes are too disparate  for there ever to be an optimum build and surely that can be no bad thing.

Overall impressions. The book is lovely, and follows the high production quality GW set itself with the release of the 8th Ed rulebook. So, it's heavier than the old book - no big deal, it should hopefully be a lot more hard wearing as a result. Listening to the 2 Bens from the Bad Dice Podcast with their views on the changes made by the new book (see my earlier post - Bad Dice Podcast Episode 57 ) they were of the view that the book is pretty tight rules wise and didn't give rise to any immediate rules queries.

For Orc and Goblin players it is, of course, a must have and although people may baulk at the £22 price tag, the production quality alone justifies that price tag and it is possible to get the book cheaper from various independent retailers.

For the non-Orc and Goblin players, it's a question of whether you are like myself, and just like to have all of the available Army Books because they look so smart on the book shelf or whether you have a mate who plays Orc and Goblins that you can borrow it from every now and then.

Tournament players presumably will want to get the book in order to follow Sun-Tzu's maxim  "“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” - Yeah so the saying goes - never did me any good!

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