Sunday, 13 July 2014

WAAAGH! Ghazghkull: Part 2 - The Rules (A Warhammer 40,000 Codex Supplement Review)

Click here to see our coverage on the lore of this codex.

If you've read previous reviews of supplement codices, you'll know the rules tend to be a big disappointment. Nearly everything there is designed only to work if you fork over more cash to buy further books. It's often padded out to all hell with scenarios and generally stuff players aren't interested in. Well, this book has actually broken that curse. No, seriously, pigs have flown, and Games Workshop seems to have finally listened to criticism. 

While a big part of the codex is given over to scenarios, and a sizable number of pages are devoted to showing off models, a lot of its greatest failings have finally been corrected. We don't have pages being given over to showing off one miniature at a time any more. There are no big sections of the book given over to Cities of Death, nor are there sections upon sections which only work if you buy more rulebooks. In fact, just about everything here works on vanilla tabletop now. 

The book is hardly perfect, but it's a massive leap forwards in quality and makes this brand of codex actually useful for a change. While it might still might suffer from failings here and there, a lot of the biggest failings plaguing the books are thankfully gone now. 

This said, the problems which have dominated this edition and the past one are still evident here. There is a big emphasis upon special rules, HQ choices are still the primary focus above all, and certain ideas which were previously reserved for Apocalypse games have been crammed in here. This is evident from the first page, but in all fairness these are easy and straight forwards to remember for the most part. It immediately lists two special rules which help to augment the army, each with some minor buffs. 

First is the Biggest An' Da Best rule, which is HQ specific. It forces the player to have the army/detachment's Warlord perform challenges as much as possible, and cannot accept them. Standard fare, but it's augmented by one small detail "If a Warlord with this special rule kills an enemy character in a challenge, he can re-roll all failed To Wound rolls in close combat for the rest of the game." It avoids the game-breaking "+1 for every kill" stuff the writers of these codices love throwing in, and it's not bad for what it is. It's small, simple to keep track of and a minor characterising element, the stuff these sorts of codices need more of.

The second is actually just as good, showing a bit more discipline among the orks of this Waaagh! thanks to Ghazghkull's leadership. Effectively any unit using the rules from this supplement gain +2 or any result on the Mob Rule table. Furthermore, should they get the Squabble or Breaking Heads results, they are hit by D3+3 attacks rather than D6. Failing is still a pain in the rear, but it means there's a chance of a few less ork boyz being taken out.

The Warlord traits meanwhile are not too bad at all. Rather than the broad mixture of results, all the ones here are relatively combat focused and more generally reliable. Unlike the ones from Sentinels of Terra or other lists, what we have here isn't going to completely screw over a list because the writer is trying to cover all bases. Ork leaders are generally going to be combat monsters in the thick of fighting as a rule and the list reflects that.

The first of these rules is Supa-Shootist, which upgrades a Warboss to BS3. It's not especially helpful but it's the result of rolling a 1 on the table so it's to be expected. It's nothing really bad but it's something you'd want to avoid.

Waaagh!-mongerer (yes, really). The Warlord and any unit he is with get the Crusader special rule. Okay, again nothing all that bad and it is helpful to getting the Warlord into combat ASAP without a transport. It adds to the overall modern 40K problem of being too rule related, but that's more a general issue.

The same actually goes to the next one, with Madboy just adding the Rage special rule to the Warlord. This one actually feels like a step down as it only works on the Warlord specifically rather the entire unit, having him cause Fear, or giving him Rampage or Hatred would have been far better options.

Next up is A Kunnin' Plan, which is definitely a step above the last options, giving the Warlord and any unit he is attached to Outflank. What's worth noting is that this unit doesn't have to be from this supplement specifically and can be from other detachments, so it gives the player more variety to work with. Nice choice, and it can provide some great distractions with most units a Warlord should be accompanied by. 

Kallin' in a Favour follows this, which immediately turn a weapon on the Warlord, any one of the player's choice, into a Master Crafted variant. Can't be done with special items and relics obviously but it's not bad and can offer a nice buff if you want an improvement for a cheap Warlord.

The final one is Dead 'Ard, which gives the Warlord the Feel No Pain special rule. This gives all the bonuses you'd want and turns him into something of a major speed bump when used against the right units, along with some added durability. Something which would be a definite help during challenges.

Overall, a decent selection of rules and well focused. It's nothing special and i'm still personally biased against random tables such as this. At the same time however, it feels as if the writers finally started to look at some of the bigger issues with previous Warlord tables. So, yeah, this is actually off to a decent start. It doesn't last however, as the book starts to fall back into old habits on the very next page.

The Orkimedes Kustom Gubbinz, which replace the Gifts of Gork and Mork from the main Codex: Orks, are what you would expect by this point. I'm honestly beginning to think that the writers are working off of a template or some mysterious editorial demand here. Just as a quick example the very first item on the list is a two handed melee weapon which offers +2 Strength and hits at AP5. These things have appeared in a multitude of previous codices with little variation on this besides some tacked on special rule, as is the case here.

The weapon in question is known as the Choppa of da Ragnarork (yes, the book features a lot of wordplay and puns of this nature) which is what you'd expect but has the Grand Destiny special rule. Said special rule is something we've seen repeatedly since Codex: Iyanden, which is the weapon upgrading itself with +1 strength and -1 AP for every successful wound. There was an attempt to make some restraint here, but it doesn't work. The book notes that this caps off at a maximum of Strength +6 and AP1, meaning the Warboss is hitting with the force of a railgun rather than breaking the game's system. I hate to say this, but at 20 points this is far too cheap a weapon.

Just compare the above with Da Killa Klaw, which is twice the points cost. It doubles the wielder's Strength and hits at AP2, but it's also Unwieldy and a Specialist Weapon. There's also the Dead Killy rule, which allows the model carrying it to exchange to make a single strike with Instant Death coming into effect. Yes, it's good and reasonably priced, but it doesn't compare to a weapon which can total a Land Raider after the Warboss carrying it has munched his way through a few Scouts.

Also, yes, as you might have noticed both weapons are adding yet more special rules that the player needs to keep track of. This is irritating given how heavily the game is already lumbered with countless special rules to keep track of, but thankfully these are the only new ones added. Well, with weapons at least. However, without it the armory loses what little interesting bits it has and soon slides back into old problems. Everything in here is extremely blandly written with little of true interest really standing out, and at best they're just passable if unremarkable as weapons.

The Big Bosspole meanwhile is a 20 points item which gives a carrier and its unit Fearless. Definitely a useful upgrade for bogging down certain enemy units with a mob of forces which they cannot easily break, but nothing really special. Okay, it doesn't nothing truly wrong but there could have been something far better and more interesting put in its slot. 

Da Supa-Cybork (although sadly bereft of Robocop jokes) offers Feel no Pain (+5), Eternal Warrior and Relentless as special rules. While costing 50 points, it's a semi-reasonable trade off depending upon how you are going to use your Warboss and how much he is valued by the army. Okay, it's good the creative team opted to not give yet more new special rules, but it doesn't stand out as anything of real interest. It just tacks on a few new things and that's really it, and doesn't offer any interesting combinations or way to utilise it with the army.

The Mega Force Field is the same thing more or less on a wider scale. It can be taken only by a Big Mek, but it gifts a 4+ invulnerable save to any unit within 6" of said Mek. This one is easily the most interesting and useful of the items on here. Anyone who has faced down a platoon, or even just a squad, with invulnerable saves knows just how infuriating this is. The fact this is not unit specific makes this well worth its high price if it's planned out in the right way. While it could have used an extra two inches to help justify its price given the size of ork squads, it's decent enough.

Finally, we have the Kill-Dakka, a gun which randomly switches stats with each battle. While it's a definite plus this isn't per turn, the problem is that the effects are somewhat random. Rolling a 1 for exaple turns it into a heavy weapon, meaning if you've shoved the Warboss in a transport with a bunch of Nobz for close combat, it's 30 points you've just wasted. The rest are various Assault weapons, but they have such varying stats that you can't really tailor a unit to rely upon it. Really, you can end up with anything from a flamer to a meltagun. At best it's really a gimmick item for brainless games, and nothing to be really taken seriously.

These are the same damn problem we saw right when these supplements were first introduced. What isn't bland or unremarkable is trying to make up for that shortcoming with sheer power or gimmick tables. There's only occasionally something of real interest which is churned out and there's little obvious thought put into making useful combinations from items. There's a fine line between obscene simplicity and needlessly clunky gameplay elements, and for many of its books it just seems that Games Workshop seems to leap from one extreme to the next.

Things aren't helped by the next sections. These are a genuine push to try and make the book more army focused, drawing things away from the HQ choices. Okay, good idea. The problem is it executed this by adding a crap load of formations and unique force organisation charts. The FOC has already taken an ungodly beating of late thanks to the poorly handled Allies chart of last edition (which was not entirely fixed in this one) and the sheer stupidity which is Unbound Armies.  

Now we have yet another element from Apocalypse being shoved haphazardly into standard 40K without the writing team understanding just why it was reserved there in the first place. Things like formations were a part of Apocalypse originally because of their large scale and the fact the entire thing was one big, dumb gimmick game of an explosive proportion. Shoving them in here? It's lazy. It tries to make up for a lack of options by offering up these charts and forcing large chunks of armies to emulate the book's tactics. 

The usual justification is that it offers benefits in terms of special rules and helps to make the army more fluffy overall. Two problems with that. The first is that it only helps to further the problems of an extreme number of special rules dragging turns to a drawn out slog; having the player forced to repeatedly re-check multiple points and keep track of three dozen separate special rules for any one army. The second is that it removes the touch players might have on a force, being able to build it up for themselves. Formations are an army (or a big part of one) designed and characterised by someone else, drawn up by them, with countless named characters and fully fleshed out already. It leaves little for the players themselves to work with or put their own unique spin on the force, no elbowroom to alter things somewhat. It's the rules version of the problem Sentinels of Terra had, turning the game from a personal hobby into playing with another person's toys.

There is of course one more problem atop of this, which is the fact a lot of these are fairly gimmicky. They emphasise a specific approaches and units above all else, and far too often feels as if it's encouraging mini-maxing, taking as many things of a specific designation or type as possible over other, more varied ones. A problem we've seen only get progressively worse with Unbound Armies, with games devolving into Rock-Paper-Scissors style beat-downs. This is unfortunately visible even in the basic FOC chart for the army (apologies for the image quality) which has these exact problems. There are more Elites slots than usual, it's compulsory to take at least one, and there are yet more special rules atop the previous ones for this army.

The first of these allows the player to re-roll Warlord table results, the second has units suddenly gain the Deep Strike rule at random. There's no word on whether this is per unit or per attached unit, so you could arguably have a Trukk teleport down into battle sans the Boyz it was carrying. Yeah, that needed to be clearer on here.

Now, to give the writers some credit they did try to offer up as many of these formations as possible. There are a grand total of seven of these in the book, and many do cover a wide variety of roles. That said, there really isn't much to add about them as they encourage unit spamming. Green Tide in particular is this taken to the extreme with one Warboss and ten units of basic Boyz (sans upgrades and transports), and buffs it by offering up a series of special rules. One of which is particularly dumb: "Green Tide: All of the units of Boyz and the Warboss form a single unit known as the Green Tide. The Warboss cannot leave this unit. The Green Tide counts as 11 units for Victory Points purposes if it is completely destroyed."
The other two additions meanwhile aren't much better. One allows your Warlord, if he's in this unit, to use the Waaagh! special rule every single turn, and the other gives the entire unit Hammer of Wrath.

This really sets the standard for most which just tack on a few more special rules to units. Here's the following ones in short: 
Ghazghkull's Bullyboyz (three units of Meganobz) gain +1WS. 
Da Vulcha Skwad (Zagstruk and three units of Stormboyz) gain the ability to only scatter D6 when Deep Striking, the Shred special rule when making Hammer of Wrath attacks, and all count as a single unit.
The Blitz Brigade (five Battlewagons) gain the ability to Scout.
The Dread Mob (a Big Mek, a Painboy, two Gorka/Morkanauts, three Deff Dreads, three units of Killa Kans) all have the Hammer of Wrath special rule with a D3 hits per model, and can re-roll one dice when calculating charge range.
Boss Snikrot's Red Skull Kommandos (Snikrot and three units of Kommandos) replace Stealth with Shrouded upon emerging from Reserves, can choose which table edge they appear from, and only require one dice to all arrive.

Then finally we have the big Death Star unit: Council of WAAAGH! Apparently forgetting about the books force organisation chart, the council consists of Ghazghkull, Mad Dok Grotsnik, two Warbosses, a Big Mek and a unit of Nobz. I guess the book had to fill out its quota of HQ options somehow. 
Anyway, the special rules here consist of (besides making it clear this is a single unit rather than a mass of independent characters), an item known as Da banner of da Great WAAAGH! which gives them +1WS and Fearless. It also allows any unit within "12 to re-roll Pinning and Failed Morale checks.  Finally, both Warbosses have an additional +1 to their WS.

Yeah, as you might have noticed, even when the codex is trying to be army focused it makes the same mistakes. A lot of these are still heavily HQ based atop of previous problems, some many requiring an additional HQ choice or specific character to work. I can appreciate that the writers offered several examples without such a requirement, and this idea might even work someday, but at the moment it's a failed experiment. A nice attempt to actually treat the codex as a codex to some degree, but for all it's correcting old mistakes it's making new ones all the while.

On the one hand, yes, it's trying to correct the previous issue of all the codex being far too reliant upon the reader buying other books to really use them. It also dodges the problem many codices had where they were effective promoting a single unit above all (Crimson Slaughter - Possessed, Clan Raukaan - Dreadnoughts), reducing an army as a platform to push certain new models. At the same time, it's creating entirely new problems and still going in the wrong direction. So, the creative team can be praise for trying to fix the mistakes here, but they're still making mistakes.

The last part consists of scenarios from Alters of War and Echoes of War. This offers up a grand total of eight different scenarios and, as you'd expect, the latter ones are all made for certain armies. This said, they're not all that bad and some are just slight variations on standard games, with Might Makes Right effectively being a points based annihilation game. WAAAGH! is another recycled idea from past books, where the ork player throws endlessly respawning Boys against a single target. The rest aren't that interesting however, with A Kunnin' Plan being Deep Strike spam-fest. As with before, they're really something which could have been removed and their pages given over to something to help further beef out the army. The first three would be enough, but the others? Beyond a few odd lore notes (such as the fact the Dark Angels wanted Armageddon as a recruitment world) they're only going to be of use against very certain players.

Really, Codex: WAAAGH! Ghazghkull isn't that bad. It has a way to go in improving errors, but it is a BIG leap forwards in terms of how the army is written and actually has some value here. I wouldn't recommend it unless you are a massive fan of formations but if the writers keep this up and keep improving we should have something halfway decent in a few more codices. As this one stands? It's okay, but nothing that remarkable even for the biggest fan of orks.

Click here to see a few suggestions on how this codex could have been handled.


  1. Wow, that green tide formation is terrible, so if get shot a few times, they'd break and run, or if they're fearless, and get in combat with something like a transcendant C'tan shard, they're screwed, no running away, no attacks back, even against a regular C'tan shard, or any T4 Psyker with Iron Arm they could not attack back aside from nobs or the warboss (who'll die in the very first challenge because he'll still be outclassed in terms of statlines).

    At least this one isn't bad, and unlike other supplements I don't think I'd mind playing against it, but I can't think of any way to fully use this unless I'm playing a 3,000 point game or higher.

    1. Honestly, I think that the Green Tide is supposed to be used as one massive speed-bump to bog down enemy forces. At least that might have been what the writer was thinking as he was covering it, something to hold back more monstrous forces while bigger things could be moved in to kill it. Either that or someone really liked the idea of Fantasy units and tried to bring that over without understanding why that worked there. Or they were using Apocalypse formations as a reference point, and didn't understand the size difference between games. Whatever the case, it's something that just doesn't work.

      Yeah, i'd really hesitate to call it good but it's a definite move towards a better quality of supplement. Here's hoping they keep trying to fix further things from here on.