Battletome Orruk Warclans: Big Waaagh! Review

“Together, we form a necessary paradox; not a senseless contradiction.”

― Criss Jami, Healology

Hopefully you’ve been enjoying the journey as we explored both Bonesplitterz and Ironjawz; now it’s time to crank up the insanity a notch or three, as we take a look at my own favourite section of the book: the Big Waaagh!

How It All Works

Splitterz and Jawz, together at last! Gork and Mork’s favourite children, united under one green banner.

Big Waaagh brings together elements of both Allegiances, with a sprinkle of its own flavour. It’s a great piece of fan-service, allowing for a lot of fun list building; it’s also got some serious chops.

A Big Waaagh army includes any keyword Orruk model. Yes, even Greenskinz! If you want to get some mileage out of those classic minis before they go to the great display cabinet in the sky, this is your opportunity: you’ve got 6 months+ until the next GH comes out and presumably Gitmobs them, so take this opportunity and give those Boyz the send off they deserve.

You essentially start without Allegiance Abilities, and accumulate them as you build up Waaagh points. This is super thematic, representing the build up in energy from swelling crowds of green hooligans, feeding off each others’ energy and revving each other up.

I won’t regurgitate the whole table, but in summary you get Waaagh points from things like having suitable support Heroes (such as Warchanters) who get the Ladz fired up, from having a General who exudes his menacing presence, from completing charges (called it), and so on.

As your Waaagh points accumulate, you unlock bonuses and abilities from the table, snowballing into an unstoppable green tide that crashes straight through the enemy. These replicate parts of the Bonesplitterz and Ironjawz allegiance abilities (6++ after save and Mad as Hell movement), but not the complete package from both (which is obviously fair enough); it does also add in its own signature bonuses that are not found anywhere else, specifically casting bonuses and +1 to both Hit and Wound in Combat. Noice!

The most important thing to note is that these bonuses are cumulative! I’ve seen a bit of confusion about this online but once you earn enough points to trigger an ability, you keep it as long as your Waaagh points remain at that level or higher.

The only way you can move back down the Waaagh points table is either by spending them on casting bonuses, or by gambling them on Da Big Waaagh! Command Ability for extra attacks. Other than that, it’s just constantly onwards and upwards, ratcheting up the bonuses as you go.

Why Big Waaagh?

I mean, first of all, it’s fun. It opens up a whole new toolkit in list building, and plays true to its nature on the tabletop.

Crucially, as well as the Battle Trait (which cherry picks parts of both Allegiances as well as adding its own stamp), you get access to all the sundries from both subfactions. So each part of the army can access its own spell lores, artefacts, Warchanter beats and so on.

This is what really makes the army come together as more than the sum of its parts:

  • You can have Arrow Boys providing Dakka support to your Ironjawz with access to all of their buffs
  • You can have a swarm of Savage Orruks lead by a Maw Krusha with a Warchanter to back it up
  • Units like Ardboys that already have good armour saves and an after save get another 6++ on top

This makes list building such a joy, and feels great from a quality of life viewpoint. It’s like having Allies, but they aren’t capped at 400 points and get their full in-faction synergies.

Also, in case you hadn’t realised: +1 to Hit and Wound is awesome. Given that your combat units are mostly hitting and wounding on 3s to begin with, and in the case of Ironjawz have access to Warchanter buffs, you can easily and regularly launch a large volume of attacks on a frankly majestic profile of 2+ 2+ Rend -1 Damage 2. Even 10 Ardboyz will just mulch stuff: in the right matchups it frankly feels like cheating.

The access to buffed casting (+2 if you really need it) can be clutch. Because you have access to both Spell Lores, you can bludgeon through a Hand of Gork or Breath of Gorkamorka; or better still, give your Wurggog Prophet a great chance of cracking that crucial 10+ on his Warscroll spell.

A Rogue Idol will boost that casting further; but that cheeky sausage gets his own special section below, oh yes!

Why Not Big Waaagh?

You do give up a fair bit for access to all this:

  • You can’t take Clans from either subfaction. This is your Clan now!
  • From the Ironjawz side, you lose Smashing and Bashing, which is of course huge.
  • You also lose access to Mighty Destroyers…at face value. We have workarounds, people!
  • From the Bonesplitterz side, the biggest loss is the pregame move.
  • If you are taking a split force, you need two sets of buffing Heroes, which gets expensive quickly.

The flipside of no Clans is that it opens up the whole playbook to you: all those artefacts and Command Traits that are normally cock-blocked by the forced choices become yours for the taking. So that Ethereal Maw Krusha is back on the menu!

All in all there are some significant trade-offs (as well there should be). The great thing about this book is that there are loads of viable armies; Ironjawz, Bonesplitterz and Big Waaagh can all shine. It’s nice to have a dilemma, hey?

What Works Well

Let’s kick it off with a bit of tech: Mighty Destroyers works well! It’s one of the best things about Ironjawz Allegiance, and there are two ways of getting back-door access in Big Waaagh: make a Megaboss your General and give him the Brutally Cunning Command Trait, or take an Ironfist Battalion.

In either case, you not only get access to the CA, you get it for free each turn. This is a significant double benefit: both of these options are already powerful selections in Ironjawz when you already have access to the Command Ability, so in Big Waaagh they are amazing.

Ironfist is always worth its points, but there are plenty of other Battalions that work well in Big Waaagh too (Kunnin Rukk and Ardfist spring to mind); if you’re running one of those Battalions (or none), I’d look very closely at taking a Megaboss with Brutally Cunning instead. Free access to Mighty D really is that good.

A key consideration in list building is, of course, Waaagh generation. Certain units give you Waaagh points just for existing, and I’m here to tell you the good news: they are units you would want anyway. The Warchanter, Wurggog Prophet and Wardokk are three of the best units in the book, and in no way a tax: take ’em for their awesome rules, keep ’em for the Waaagh points!

What should your target be? A good rule of thumb is to reliably hit 20 Waaagh points by Round 2: the +1 to Hit and Wound are money, and this is where they kick in. If you can get there with a little room to spare, so much the better, because it would be nice to spend a few on clutch early casts too.

One way to turbo charge your Waaagh generation is to stock up on bodies: you can parlay a CP into a nice stack of Waaagh points with the ‘Ere We Go Command Ability, which is another argument for taking a 30-block or two of Arrow Boys or Savage Orruks. Even with a decent chunk of Ardboyz it can do some real work – so again, you are rewarded for taking solid units that you would want anyway.

Pebbles

You know what works well in a Big Waaagh? A Rogue Frikkin Idol, that’s what! I believe him to be somewhat of a luxury in Ironjawz, but competitive in Bonesplitterz; yet Big Waaagh is where he really shines.

The beauty of taking him in this build is that you have full access to both sets of buffs (Ironjawz and Bonesplitterz). Whereas in a Bonesplitterz list you can fit in an allied Warchanter for example, giving the Rogue Idol +1 Damage is all he is there for; in Big Waaagh, the Chanter also gets to know a Beat, and you can use him to buff up that 6-block of Gore Gruntas too…all while he’s generating Waaagh points for you, into the bargain. Sweat the asset!

The Bonesplitterz wizards buff your Idol up with their spells and dances, and get +1 to cast in return. With careful list building, you can achieve the critical mass of support units and beneficiary units on both sides of the Allegiance, with the whole wonderful circle-jerk held together by this huge hunk of rock and magic.

As you’ll see below, I’ve written an outline list around Pebbles to explore just how far you can take this.

Greenskinz

Worth a mention too is that Greenskinz are officially along for the party! The Warboss on Boar and Wyvern both had their CAs nerfed so they are not “too good” in Big Waaagh (fair enough), but with the rest of the tech in this army they are certainly still viable.

The +1 attack stacks with Da Big Waaagh, and it just happens…no risk of losing Waaagh points. The Waaagh Banner will give you rerolls to wound (always nice to have, especially with the good baseline stats), and the Wyvern has quite a few attack profiles to benefit from extra attacks. Either variant is worthy of consideration if they are already in your collection, although I certainly wouldn’t be rushing out to splash money on them with the Sword of Damocles hanging menacingly.

I would skip past the Boarboys (Savages are better), and the Boar Chariot is probably a fun pick only, but the Greenskinz themselves are interesting as 1-wound chaff and cheap Battleline. Other units may be more efficient on a points-per-wound basis, but sometimes you just want a few bargain-basement dickheads to stand in a Gnaw Hole or wear a Keeper of Secrets to the face. They have their role.

I’m not advocating it as a competitive choice, but you totally could run an all-Greenskinz list under the Big Waaagh if you wanted to. Most of us are expecting the faction to be Gitmobbed in the next GH (although it’s still speculation, because GW have given us no official communication on the matter), so for anyone who wants to take the Ladz for one final fling, this could be just the ticket.

In Defence of Da Big Waaagh Command Ability

I’ve seen a lot of negativity to the Command Ability that gives you an extra attack (or two), and I think at least part of the criticism is ill-founded. Let me explain why.

The first thing to understand is that you don’t lose your accumulated Waaagh points (if at all) until the end of the phase. So you will totally get your +1 to Hit and +1 to Wound as well as the extra attacks in that one big phase, regardless of how many Waaagh points you end up losing. So if you’re looking to set up that one devastating turn, or even just need to hit the “Oh Shit” button, it absolutely does give you that surge in output.

The second thing is that looking a little closer at the table, where it knocks you down to is not that bad. If you roll a 1, you’re obviously fucked, so I’m not going to lie to you and claim this play doesn’t have its risks.

But let’s say you’ve capped out at 30 points before you risk it for the biscuit: if you hit that 2-5 range, and half your Waaagh points, that puts you on 15 after your turn. That’s just 1 point before the +1 to Hit kicks in at 16 Waaagh, and only 5 points before you also click the +1 to Wound. That kind of Waaagh generation just happens by default unless you’re getting tabled, or close to it – in which case, what do you have to lose?

All I’m saying is, don’t rule it out. Understand what it can give you and in what circumstances it’s a good bet; keep it as a tool in your arsenal. It’s a risk-reward play, and it’s quite nicely judged as such.

Just don’t roll a 1, dumbass!

The Gordrakk Conundrum

Big G gives you a straight 6 Waaagh Points at the start of each Hero Phase, so at face value the Big Waaagh is his natual home. Honestly thought – I just don’t see it.

I’m on record as saying that Gordrakk’s Warscroll is significantly undercooked and overcosted. He’s just not the force of nature and dominant, game-defining powerhouse that his points cost and stature in the lore merit.

Big Waaagh doesn’t do enough to change that – his signature Command Ability for example is actually less valuable, given the access to an army-wide buff that achieves the same thing. No doubt someone will find a way to make it work, but equally I’m sure that a player who is capable of doing so would have achieved similarly great things with a lot less heartache if they’d just used a proper Maw Krusha instead.

Gordrakk is still a bit crap, and if you were hoping Big Waaagh would rescue him from irrelevance, I’m afraid you’ll have to keep waiting.

List Building Archetypes

Let’s get ’em on the table! Usually my method is to give you the heart of a list and playstyle, but today I’ve also added a couple of fully fleshed-out 2000 point lists since I am actively playing this army currently. Honestly, I’m having so much fun with Big Waaagh, it’s been hard to knuckle down and get serious with the other two subfactions.

The Rock Star

Let’s explore how far we can push Pebbles:

We’ll kick off with a Megaboss and Brutish Cunning, so Pebbles is piling in every Hero Phase, or getting a free move.

A Warchanter is essential to jack up the output on those mighty fists: even better if you’re swinging twice a turn. He can also heal you up if you cop a few wounds.

Speaking of healing, there is no Rule of One on that particular Wardokk dance. So that’s potentially 3D3 wounds healed per turn, between the Warchanter and double Wardokks.

Not that your opponent will be putting much damage on him, after you’ve put Kunnin Beast Spirits on him (and your casting is auto-buffed, remember!). Why not shake a little shake, dance a little dance and put another +1 to save on him from a Wardokk too? Worth noting that unlike a spell, he can only be affected by each wardance once, but you can attempt it multiple times.

You’re now at +2 to save, and you’re also a keyword Orruk, so you have a cheeky 2+ 5++ 6+++ triple save! Solid.

I guess a 10″ move is ok…but how about we double it, and make him fly, with Breath of Gorkamorka? He’s now flying 20″ a turn. I guess that’s ok…but how about we make that a 40″ flying move by nudging him along with your free Mighty D move too? 40″ flying move! WTF.

With +1 to Hit and Wound, he’ll be hitting on 2s rerolling 1s on the charge (which is also buffed at +1″ in Big Waaagh), and wounding on 2s rerolling 1s with the Warboss nearby. Speaking of the Warboss, fancy an extra attack on each profile? Here, go nuts!

Meanwhile you’re helping the Prophet crack off his horde-clearing spell with bonuses to cast. Now this leaves only 880 points for your troops, so it might be past the point of being truly efficient: but remember you can also use those Heroes to buff all your other units, so they are not a sunk cost.

In the real world you would probably trim at least one support Hero out; as cool as he is, if you punt the Warboss for example that gives you 1020 points to build your Battleline, which feels a bit more competitive. But as an illustration of how far you can take this guy: Holy Shit!

The “All The New Toys” list

Strong as an ox, fresh out the box, I put this list together the day the book dropped and I’ve not been able to put it down since. It really is intended as a Beerhammer list, but it does have some chops, and it’s been hella fun to play:

Committed readers will be all too aware that I’ve fallen hard for Destroyer. It really is wild overkill in an already-choppy list, but once you get used to having it, and once you’ve seen how much fun it is, it is so, so hard to let it go.

Beyond that, the list is really geared up to make use of the new tech in the book: Megaboss Bamm Bamm is rocking Brutish Cunning to bring Mighty D into your life, and a we’re bringing a couple of Warchanters along for the ride because they are the best support unit in this or any book.

On the Bonesplitterz side we have a Wardokk with Kunnin Beast Spirits to get the crazy-gravy saves and double healing on Pebbles, as well as a Prophet for the CP generation and spell which just eviscerates hordes. We also have plenty of access to casting bonuses (Pebbles, Wardokk dances and spending Waaagh points) to get that sweet, sweet 10+ casting roll. Meanwhile Breath of Gork combos with Mighty D to get Pebbles flying 40″ and fucking up whatever needs to be fucked up.

Anyone who doesn’t know what Warchanter-buffed Gruntas and Ardboyz can do is in for a nasty surprise. The humble unit of 10 Ardboyz will be rocking 22 attacks on a 2+ 2+ Rend -1 Damage 2, and that will just rip the heart out of similar units across the table from you.

Wound count is relatively low for a Big Waaagh army – that’s what happens when you take Bamm Bamm and Pebbles. But we’re here for a good time not a long time, and this army is a good time all the way.

“All The New Toys”: Refined and Reloaded

This will be the next iteration of the list above, aiming to become a little more competitive whilst keeping the fun core:

Bamm Bamm has been downgraded to a Foot Boss, keeping the access to Mighty D for a much lower investment. The points liberated from that move have largely gone into a maximum unit of Arrow Boys.

These guys are serious business, don’t doubt it. You can stack the +1 to hit from Brutal Beast Spirits and the Maniak Weirdnob Warscroll Spell to get them hitting on 4s and double-popping on 6s; if your Prophet earns you a cheeky CP, you might even invest in rerolling 1s in the shooting phase.

From their 90 shots they should be forcing something like 35 saves; against Monsters these are all at rend -1 (Mortarchs hate Arrow Boys, believe it!). Blasting a Hero off the board is their specialty, but they also love bludgeoning their way through 1-wound chaff such as Plague Monks.

With Kunnin Beast Spirits and the Wardokk dance, you can get the Arrow Boys on a 4+ save. Maybe even invest one of the Prophet’s spells into Mystic Shield, and you can have a 60-wound unit on a 4+ save rerolling 1s. So kinda like 30 Liberators…with a 6++ aftersave.

Crucially, they give you some output outside of the Combat Phase; as well as clearing off screens for your Gore Gruntas to charge to where they want to be, it means that things like Mortek Guard don’t get to reroll their saves. Shooting is still so, so important in the current meta.

They also ooze Waaagh generation, giving you a nice high body count for Ere We Go. You should comfortably hit 20 Waaagh points by turn 2, and can probably get there even after splashing a little on buffed casting.

Because the Foot Boss doesn’t demand further investment in the same way that a Maw Krusha does, we have jacked up the Prophet instead. He’s got a +1 to cast Artefact, to double down with the Rogue Idol casting bonus and the Wardokk dance. Throw in some Waaagh points, and he can be casting 3 spells a turn up there on his Balewind at anywhere from +2 to +5 per spell. That gives you a great shot at cracking a 10+ cast on his horde-clearing spell from 30″ away.

We’ve also got all the Rogue Idol fun times that we’ve discussed already, but we won’t be flinging him forward turn 1 in most games. The standard play will be buff up the Arrow Boys and put them in an advanced position, and keep Pebbles back to buff a second turn of casting. The pigs can be wave one of combat, bombing down a flank with a Warchanter buff and clearing up an Objective. After you’ve eviscerated their army with your shooting, the Wurggog spell and the bacon, you’re ready to buff up Pebbles and clean up what’s left.

The Ardboyz and Greenskinz are Wave 3. Ardboyz are more than capable of skirmishing with anything that’s likely to be left alive; Greenskinz less so. They are included partly for nostalgia, but mainly as true cheap chaff. They can screen against an aggressive army if needed, but more often they will shield the back of your Heroes from deep striking units or stand in a Gnaw Hole, before running onto Objectives unchallenged late on.

See? Easy! Let’s go!

The Netlist

Coming in with a list completely different from anything I’ve been working on, Eric Hoerger has been smashing it with his own Big Waaagh list, built around a jacked-up Weirdnob Shaman.

The Shammy is now a 2-spell caster with a second lore spell and buffed casting, even before the Balewind. Between his two cracks at Green Puke and Wrath of Gork (which combos nicely with all those units of Ardboyz around), he is bordering on heavy-duty Mortal Wound artillery.

He also has the home run threat of Hand of Gork to keep Eric’s opponents honest with their positioning, and the Prophet will gladly step up onto the Balewind himself if he needs to crack out one of his spells at extended range.

A single unit of 15 Ardboyz is a force to be reckoned with, so watcha gonna do when 75 of them line up against you? With the Wurrgog Prophet along for the ride, there should be plenty of CPs here to get units of 10 back too. Eric’s list demonstrates that Ardfist works well within a “proper army” and doesn’t need to game the system to succeed.

Eric has had an excellent run of early success with this army, including a 4-1 result and Podium at Justice Series GT:

https://tabletop.to/justice-series-autumn-gt

You can watch his army in action on THWG:

In Conclusion

I always try to give my honest opinions on this blog; I love Warhammer, so I’m naturally going to like most things GW puts out, and that will come through in my posts. But I do sometimes get frustrated when I see something I don’t like, and when that happens, I think I make it pretty clear.

So believe me when I say that I think this book is fantastic. All three Allegiances are awash with viable options and list building dilemmas; the great achievement of this book is that the competitive builds are fun, and the fun builds are competitive.

Nothing encapsulates that better than Big Waaagh, which succesfully bridges the gap between Beerhammer and competitive gaming. It’s going to be a hell of a journey.

Bravo, GW, bravo.

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