Gotrek! Hot Takes, and How to Handle Him

Everybody has two lives.

The second begins the day you realise you only have one.

~ Confucius

For anyone who has been living under a rock, Gotrek is back! Who’s he? Well, Gotrek was a much-loved character from the Warhammer Fantasy Battle era, starring in many of the most popular Black Library books ever released. To say that my own Warhammer Fantasy Battle career was brief would be quite the understatement, but even I had heard of this guy!

He has a new model, Matched Play points, and a Warscroll that has already caused quite a stir…so what do we think of him? Is this a good thing for the game, and when you see him across the table (which is definitely gonna happen), how do you handle him? Let’s take a look at the Wee Man in detail.

The Lore

He’s an angry little dude who likes fighting. One cool aspect is that he’s actively seeking his doom, in a manner that is truly fitting for a mighty hero: his sidekick Felix actually came along to chronicle the story of Gotrek’s inevitable death.

There is extensive background information available here, but honestly, Games Workshop has a catchup article which directs you towards the source literature. People whose judgment I trust speak very highly of the original books, so I suggest that anyone interested goes back to them.

If you’re not keen on necroing the old books, you can jump on board with Realmslayer, which brings Gotrek into the Mortal Realms: as pointed out by Ollie Grimwood, this also serves as a nice satire on the journey of WHFB players into AOS. This one is on Audible, which is a lot more affordable than going direct to Black Library, so I suggest going down that path.

One thing worth a mention is that after the End Times, Gotrek spent his time fighting in the Realm of Chaos, before making his way on to the Mortal Realms. What I do like here is that we have a proper pathway from the World That Was to the current setting.

Honestly, I’d prefer that we move on from WHFB and start telling new stories with new characters, like we did with Skragrott for example. But if we are going to play favourites and resurrect some old heroes, I’m glad that in this case we have a proper narrative thread explaining their continued existence.

If you like Gotrek, if he’s your boy, I’m glad for your sake that he’s back: and he certainly got a miniature and Warscroll worthy of his legendary status.


The Model

In a word: Epic

Yup.

One look at that, and I was sold. He’s so defiant and full of spunk, ready to take on the world in his blue jeans and bovver boots. Possibly my favourite smaller character since the Megaboss, and certainly worthy of the Avatar of Grimnir.

The price tag is also very reasonable. $55 Aussie Dollars is a lot cheaper than I was expecting, and it’s a great price point for anyone who just wants to pick him up as a painting project or as a tribute to his legend.

The one thing I’m not keen on is the base size(s). The GW Webstore states that: “He comes with two options for bases – a 32mm round base for using him in your games, and a 40mm round base with scenic detailing”.

That’s just bullshit. He is an epic Hero, with an epic Warscroll, and he looks epic on the proper base: don’t fudge it and give him another advantage by bumping him down to a Blood Reaver base. This isn’t some Battleline goober. He comes on a 40mm and that should be the end of it.

Pick and stick, fellas! Literally every promotional image shows him on the larger, scenic base, which can’t be a coincidence: compared to his proper base, he will look shit on a 32mm, and GW must know that.

Anyway, people with a keen eye will spot something very, very unusual buried in that last point…yes, I will be buying one! Any non-Destruction purchase is incredible rare for me, but one look at this fella and he won me over. You’d need to have a heart of stone not to be on this guy’s side, so once I saw the model, any thoughts I had about him being better left to rest in The World That Was were swept aside.

I should also take this opportunity to annouce that… I am actually a closet Dwarf fan. A dear friend of mine, who passed away far too young, was the person who originally got me interested in The Hobby way back in 1994. Until I jumped back on board with AOS shortly after launch in 2015, my only experience of Warhammer was those couple of years where I collected Undead and he collected Dwarves. So I do have a lot of goodwill towards the little fellas, dating way back.

I have no current plans to put my own Gotrek on the tabletop, but I do suddenly find myself owning over 25% of an Order army, so never say never.

On The Tabletop

Erm…I guess that’s OK?

How Will He Play?

Like a little Stonehorn, but with a much better Stone Skeleton…and crucially, much slower.

Honestly though, when you’re this hard to kill, you can safely run him out on his own to dominate a whole area of the board. Round 1, Gotrek can run 10″ out into the wild blue yonder (using a CP if necessary), and stand out there with his dick flapping happily in the wind. He doesn’t have (or need) any real synergy, so he’s super modular in the way he operates.

According to the Community article, he automatically wins literally every combat and is completely unkillable. Please don’t accuse me of exaggeration there; if it is an overstatement, it is GW’s overstatement, not mine:

https://www.warhammer-community.com/2019/09/05/gotrek-vs-the-mortal-realms/

I do think they may have stacked things in his favour a little (no Hero Phase for Nagash?), but you get the picture. 4″ may still be his Acchiles’ Heel, but it isn’t as slow as it looks when you look at how this guy operates in practice.

What Kind of Armies Will You See Him In?

Literally the whole of Order can Ally him in, and really, he can operate well in most builds.

One early piece of tech doing the rounds is including him in an Idoneth army, using the Ionrach enclave. This gives Allied units access to the Tides of Death, meaning that he gets various bonuses depending on the Battleround, all of which are really clutch for him:

  • Cover in Round 1
  • Run + Charge in Round 2 (Ooooh Lordy!)
  • Fight at the start of the Combat Phase in Round 3
  • Retreat + Charge in Round 4
  • Cover again in Round 5

These are all huge, especially Run + Charge. If you are chaffing him up late game, remember to wrap around him so he can’t retreat!

Will this prove to be better than Fuethan + Eel spam in the long run? That is open to debate, although I suspect not. It will certainly be a strong army though, and one I think we’ll see in action.

You might see Gotrek crop up a lot in forthcoming Cities of Sigmar armies, because as a Soup tome they will have a lot of angles covered, and hence little need for other Allies. Keep a keen eye out for any tech in this book that affects all friendly units, and is not keyword-restricted!

Chronomatic Cogs obviously works very well with him, and even at 80 points could be worth building into your army. I especially like this one if you have a Plan B usage for it, specifically a durable wizard that can benefit from slowing down time in the matchups where you really don’t want to give your opponent short charges. If you have that dual-purpose built in, I think it can justify its 80 points.

So look out for the Gotrek + Morathi 1-2 Punch, with Cogs to get those stumpy little legs pumping, or to have Morathi rerolling all saves, as the scenario requires.

Healing in general is dynamite on this guy. Your opponent has to work so frikkin hard to remove every single one of those uber-expensive wounds, and slamming D3 back on there will be debilitating for them. The Excelsior Warpriest fits the bill – and it might be time for the Emerald Lifeswarm to see some table time too.

One concept that Jack Armstrong mentioned was looking at Shootcast lists that funnel your opponent towards Gotrek, which really is smart thinking. Chaff screens and avoidance are all very well until you get 100 arrows in your face, and you have to step forward into the Lion’s Den; I’d be very interested to see any list ideas along these lines.

See what I mean? Spunky!

Is He OP?

Hellz no! When people are whining about him being uninteractive, what most of them mean is that they can’t just push their Terrorgheist into him, and that leaves them clean out of ideas. He’s a good counter to a lot of on-meta armies, but that is in no way the same thing as being OP.

Honestly, there is loads of counter play…none of which involves pushing a fucking Terrorgheist in his general direction. We’re not that basic here, we can do better than that!

This whole thing is just so cinematic. You will have all these widely-feared Monsters running away in blind panic from this tiny dude pumped up on rage. It’s going to be hilarious to see on the tabletop.

Honestly, I love it.

How To Take Him On

Realistically Gotrek can’t whiff, because he rerolls everything and gets two bites at the cherry. You can’t just ignore this guy and hope for the best.

The first thing to recognise is which of the potential workarounds are limited by the Warscroll. Damage 1 spam is obviously the most efficient way to churn through those 3+ after-saves, but it’s hard to fit a lot of bases around his. Units on 25mm bases with 2″ reach would have a decent shout, so things like DOK and Plague Monks could be in decent shape.

Crucially, you can’t instajib this guy with the likes of Reality Splitting Axe or Hand of Dust. I’m not sure this was really necessary – those things are very rare, and the units involved pay a premium for them. For how often it will come up, I think they should have just let it happen. It’s good for the meta that “unkillable” stuff can always meet its Armageddon.

Reducing that damage to 1 Mortal Wound (which he will probably save anyway) is a bit of a slap in the face. Gotrek is already an uber-tank, and removing opportunities for tactical counter play is rarely a good thing.

With that said, strap yourself in, because the good news is that this Warscroll has built in some very well-designed limitations, and we’re going to look at how to exploit all of them:

  • Only 4″ movement
  • No deep strike
  • 1″ range in Combat, so screens do work (at least for the first pile in!)
  • Second pile-in comes at the end of the Combat Phase, so you get a chance to hit back inbetween

The Fundamentals

Basic best-practice movement and board control will see you a long way here.

Layered chaff screens: Keeping 3″ gaps in between screens will leave Gotrek marooned after his first activation, and unable to pile in for a second time. This might sound familiar to people from my last article: the meta is pushing you towards multiple screens, folks. Take the hint!

Smart removal of casualties: When removing models, look for opportunities to leave Gotrek outside of 3″ to prevent his second pile in, even if it means you can’t attack back yourself. Holding the objective for an extra turn, and forcing Little G to waste a second turn killing the remainder of a chaff unit, will usually be more valuable than putting a wound or two on him.

You might even be able to leave those few remaining bodies on the Objective but behind him, so he has to move backwards to clean them up in his next activation! Shape up with this in mind when preparing to face a charge.

Waste his time: He’s most likely running Turn 1, so he has a maximum of 4 turns to have an actual impact on the game. Each of those turns is therefore a huge resource, and making him waste those turns killing junk units can be as effective as killing him.

Screen the objective: Set up to face a charge with the back of your base inside 6″ of the Objective, and the front outside. Gotrek relies on holding Objectives by 1 model to 0 after murdefucking everything on there. This way, even if he kills you, he can’t score VPs…as long as you are careful not to leave him a second pile in that would bring him onto the Objective! But you’re already all over that from reading the points above, right?

Multi charge: As noted above, Gotrek’s second pile in is at the end of the phase. If you can attack with multiple units first you can potentially grind him down. Units that fight first, Slaanesh’s Locus, the Doppelganger Cloak, and spells like Itchy Nuisance are all really impactful against him as long as you can get in range to attack.

Summoning: If you can resurrect your units as quickly as he kills them, you can keep scoring those Objectives and break his heart: he’s only 1 model!

Even though it’s my beloved Grots, I must admit this image is fucking epic

Movement Denial

You know what’s worse than a 4″ move? A 2″ move. There’s plenty of tech out there to slow him down further, but one of my favourites is the litte-seen Shards of Vargharr Endless Spell. Combo the movement debuff with a neg to hit, and that little bastard will be running around puffing and panting with a bright purple face, while you just Moonwalk around the table scoring the Objectives.

Other than the many ways to half his movement, what else can we do to manage his positioning on the board? Plenty!

Deny him charges That’s a lot of free movement. If you give him a 6″ charge, that’s a turn and a half of movement for him. Obviously you can’t always leave all your units 16.1″ away from him, because you’ll give up far too much space on the battlefield, but do try to leave him praying for long bombs as much as possible.

Pre-measure your movement so he’ll be just outside the distance to complete a given charge, rather than just inside – if you don’t think an extra 1″ matters, ask your wife.

Edge cases: Hypersnare Seeds (Ghyran artefact) could be a good second or third artefact behind Ghyrstrike and / or one from your Faction. This is useful in a lot of matchups, and dynamite against Gotrek.

I’m charging with +2″, so I can’t fail this charge…

Well you can today, motherfucker!

It only works on a 5+, but you’ll likely be rolling for it multiple times in every match. So many games come down to a key charge being made or not made…Across the course of a tournament season, this artefact will win you matches.

Stormcast budgies are another useful piece of charge denial tech. They can also perform neat tricks like zipping onto on Objective away from the main unit that is being charged, so even if the unit being charged gets wiped, you continue to hold it…just make sure you stay out of 3″ to deny that second pile in!

By dangling a secondary target just under 3″ back from your screen, you might be able to tempt Gotrek to pile in a second time, ending up away from the Objective and failing to capture it.

If you give your opponent enough opportunities to make mistakes, occasionally they will do so.

Fjul used as a stand-in for illustration purposes!

#BuildThatWall: He can’t fly or teleport: block him in with Palisades, Soulsnare Shackles and Scuttletide. Bit of a dick move? Hey, I’m not the one who designed a Warsrcoll, then boasted that there’s literally no point in ever trying to engage with it.

And if you think I’m just going to push my models towards him so you can delete my army, you’re in for a fucking shock, let me tell you.

Debuffs

Gotrek is sensitive to stacking Debuffs to hit. Rerolling a 3+ means you get basically everything through. Rerolling looking for 5s or 6s is another beast entirely: Grots can feasibly have him fishing for those 6s and nothing else.

He still does a lot of MWs, but you know what Grots have a lot of? Wounds. It’s gonna take more than a few D6 MWs to blast through them in a turn. Which makes all the difference between him being an infinite-damage wrecking ball, rolling around the table deleting your army, and an expensive liability that gets bogged down until Turn 4.

Killing him

As you’ve probably gathered by now, in general I think containment and managing him is the route to success for most armies. But that’s not to say he’s unkillable!

Due to his Super Stone Skeleton, high volume of Damage 1 attacks is the way you’ll whittle him down. Forcing 48 zero-rend saves is the magic number to wipe him in a turn….hellooo, Kunnin Rukk!

(Incidentally, this is yet another situation where Kunnin Beast Spirits is low-key one of the best debuff spells in the game right now, and one that I hope makes it into Battletome Orruk Warclans.)

In combat, again you are looking for a high volume of low-damage attacks. Because Rend is still useful in getting past that initial 4+ save, Rend -1 Damage 1 profiles with 2″ range are the sweet spot. This is even better if you can explode into 2 Hits, or into 1 Hit + 1 MW (e.g. Daemonettes or Stabbas), again forcing Gotrek to roll more and more dice at those 3+ after-saves.

Even the packaging feels special

In Conclusion

The way this has been impletemented is super thematic, and the restrictions built into the Warscroll make it an intriguing challenge. I do think the death-proof bonus was unneccessary, but that is an issue more in theory than in practice, and really a minor distraction in the grand scheme of things. Way more important is that the decision to block any teleport / redeploy was a masterstroke. This is a huge limitation in modern AOS, and the key factor that makes this Warsrcoll strong, but fair.

It’s often said (including by me) that you legitimately need to consider the impact on the mid-tables and garage gaming when assessing whether something is so powerful as to have a negative impact on the game. Well this is the exact opposite – it will be a huge net positive in those arenas, by proactively teaching and training people to Git Gud.

Let’s be honest, a lot of players will get utterly wrecked the first time they face him, but learning how to tackle him across a few sessions is a great training exercise – because what works against him also works against many other Death Stars. Learning to screen, controlling space on the table, debuffing, and above all having the clarity of thought to avoid engaging in a battle you can’t win (rather than being drawn into it through morbid fascination) is all money in the bank for your Warhammer career.

Good players will find ways to win a lot of games when using him; bad players will lose a lot of games with him.

Good players lining up against Gotrek will find ways to contain him; bad players will push everything in his general direction, lose it all, and then complain that he is OP.

Honestly, there is so much scope for player skill to determine the outcome here; and if that’s not a well-designed Wasrcroll, I don’t know what is.

The model is amazing, the Warscroll is spot on, the Black Library support is on the money…GW have nailed it with this one. It’s a great release.

Welcome back, champ.

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