Spiders, Baby! White Dwarf Leaks and Analysis

We go again! This is the third and apparently final in a series of White Dwarf updates to the Gloomspite Gits book. I’ve been very upbeat on the love given to Squigs and Troggoths, so can GW make it three in a row?

Spoiler alert: no they cannot. As welcome as this is – we could easily live in a world where Spiders didn’t get this support, or even got squatted – the issue facing Spiders is of a different order of magnitude to Squigs and Troggoths.

Both of those had solid core units with genuinely good warscrolls; their issue was the near-absence of rules around them. They were paying the price for a Battletome that had “Better Not Let Them Be Too Good” running through it like a stick of Blackpool rock, so what they were crying out for was some tech to build on those foundations.

Spiders are a whole other beast. Fundamentally, when you look at the core Spider Riders, there’s just not enough under the hood. They’re expensive, terrible at scoring objectives, feather-fisted and die in droves to virtually anything that goes near them. Somehow they have slipped through points update after points update at 100 points for 5 models: 10 points per wound was fine back in the first General’s Handbook when that bought you a Greenskinz Orruk, but in the current era puts them on a par with Skryre Acolytes or Hearthguard Bezerkers and in that context, they really are piss weak.

When I looked at 20 Spider Riders for 400 points, and 20 Hearthguard Bezerkers for 400 points, I had what alcoholics call a moment of clarity. The sad part is that this army looks truly epic on the tabletop, and wheeling out an Arachnarok is still one of the best and most impactful ways to get a new player hooked on Age of Sigmar, so they really do deserve better.

Anyway, let’s bash into what’s on offer.

The Rules

Big thanks to whatever kind soul leaked these photos. The whole army ignores magic on a 5+? Not bad.

Rerolls hits? Sweet, we can go fishing for those Mortal Wounds! Only against Wizards and Priests? OK, that’s not great, but it might be fun to use against Lumineth at least. And only on Skitterstrands, a 200 point model with just four meaningful attacks? Yup, that “Better Not Let Them Be Too Good” klaxon is ringing out loud and clear.

Command Ability

I’m a big fan of retreat and charge mechanics, and they’ve already won me games with new Troggoths. The issue that I have here is that you’ll want to use it on Spider Riders, in which case wholly within 12″ is no small limitation for a unit on cavalry bases; and most of your units are autofucked in a round of combat, so the need and opportuinty to retreat with Spider Riders will be less common than you think.

This is still nice to have: an incredibly powerful tool in its own right, but with limited applications in the context of this army specifically.

Command Trait

Now you’re talking! For context, being under the Bad Moon makes your mortals pop on an unmodified 5+ rather than a natural 6. You can use this CT in either player’s combat phase, and best of all, it’s board wide. Used in conjunction with the actual Bad Moon, and maybe even the Totem of the Spider God artefact, you can have multiple turns of mortal wound funtimes, swarming on your enemy in waves.

This is the best thing about the new rules bar none, and the main reason I think there might be a decent list tucked away in there somewhere.

Artefact

Neg 1 Bravery to enemies and plus 1 Bravery to you. Note that the plus 1 can layer up with the Arachnarok Command Trait (and the Banner) to put your Spiders on a pretty solid Bravery 9, although again that wholly 12″ bubble feels a bit stingy for an army on big bases. Only 6″ for your opponents is just shit.

You can rezz them through the Shrine, as expected. Ultimately, you’ll be doing this for rule of cool, not because it’s good; still, it’s nice to have the option, and nobody is forcing you to rezz Spider Riders instead of something useful. The worst thing is that I can see myself being stupid enough to do so.

The Battalions

OK there’s a bit to get your teeth into here. It’s a real mixed bag: some are underwhelming, whereas others really give us something to work with. Let’s crack into it.

Blasting out of traps with DA BEST. Make no mistake, this is a bloody good Battalion. One big thing to note is that you get to whip your units off the table after knowing who is going first, which is unusually strong for these pregame move kinda deals.

There is an element of RNG crap in there because of course they had to make it frustrating “fun” to use, but let’s be clear: this is a tangible upgrade. If you go second, it can save a key piece from an Alpha Strike: even if you only roll up 1 unit, you can protect a key Hero from your opponent’s early Dakka, given that you can lean on Battleshock protection from the Shrine (followed up with a splash of rezzing) on the troops.

You can also use it for a true Alpha Strike option of your own, although that will necessitate the inclusion of Cogs which pushes the price up further.

This Battalion bonus is crap, given the attacks it’s buffing. The Howdah is shit beyond redemption, and the only decent attack (fangs) rolls a mere four dice, that already hit on 2s and are really fishing for Mortals anyway.

The main benefit seems to be bundling up your Heroes for a 2-drop overall package, but given that you can hit 2 or 3 drop without it, I don’t find it particularly compelling. Moving on.

OK, this is so much weaker than it looks on paper. First up, these things have no native bonuses to charge. You’ll likely pop up 9″ away, fail your charge and do fuck all. Second of all, on those big pie plate bases, the “popping up” part might be harder than you think. Third of all, they are already paying for the ability to deepstrike on their warsrcoll, albeit only once.

I’m a huge fan of this ability in general, but these aren’t Gunhaulers. They can’t pop up and shoot you, they are hard to place with those mahoosive bases, and at 200 points they owe you too much. Great ability, but hamstrung by the unit it applies to.

I actually think I prefer the Skitterstrand Battalion from the book that gives them much-needed bonuses to charge after deepstriking, and comes in 30 points cheaper to boot; that being said, I’ll give this one a whirl in casual games, because I happen to have three Skitters gathering dust and it will at least be fun to burst up out of the ground and pounce with these huge spiders.

Worth a mention at this point is that every single one of these Battalions comes in at exactly 140 points. Honestly – that’s just lazy. These are not all equally as good as each other, but then again nor are the ones in the Bonesplitterz book, and GW couldn’t be bothered to give them bespoke points costs either. Lame.

The Lists

How do you make this army work? With the deepstriking, redeploying and retreat + charge shenanigans, it feels like they’re meant to be a hit and run army, striking suddenly from unexpected angles and then melting away again. Sounds like fun, hey?

The problem is that in practice, I fear they will be “hit and die” more than “hit and run”. Anything off the board (or up the board) will be out of range for the double Mortal Wounds spell, and they’ll get flattened in return. In my honest opinion, Spider Riders are just too far behind the power curve to mix it with anything remotely competitive.

But can we do enough damage with one big, crashing wave of chitin to give ourselves something to hold on to? Maybe – let’s find out.

Allegiance: Gloomspite Gitz

Leaders
Webspinner Shaman on Arachnarok Spider (280)
 General
 Command Trait: Prophet of Da Spider God
 Artefact: Shyishan Spider-sigils
 Lore of the Spiderfangs: Scuttling Terrors
Webspinner Shaman (80)
 Artefact: Totem of the Spider God
 Lore of the Spiderfangs: Gift of da Spider God

Battleline
30 x Spider Riders (540)
15 x Spider Riders (300)
15 x Spider Riders (300)
5 x Spider Riders (100)
5 x Spider Riders (100)

Battalions
Grimskuttle Skitterswarm (140)

Endless Spells / Terrain / CPs
Chronomantic Cogs (80)
Scuttletide (30)
Scrapskuttle’s Arachnacauldron (40)

Total: 1990 / 2000
Extra Command Points: 1
Allies: 0 / 400
Wounds: 158

Creepy little bastards bursting out of nowhere and swarming all over you! Coming in at just two drops, and with the option to tuck D3 units away safe and sound, this army can flex to what’s in front of it. Plan A is to fling as much venom as possible in their face turn one, and pray to Da Spider God you get lucky.

You have extreme speed across the deck: 10″ base movement on your Spider Riders, native +2″ to run, and the ability to run + charge from the Scuttling Terrors spell. They ignore terrain with their Wall Crawler ability, so with Cogs in there we’re running 20″ and then adding 2″ to the charge roll.

The double-MW spell has a reasonable 16″ bubble, and run + charge is 24″, so we should be casting from out of Unbind range early on. We’ve got a few different angles here: generally we’ll be trying to drown their army in crashing torrent of venom with a buffed-up 30-block, using some models sideways to keep coherency and wrap their whole army.

We can also pop up a smaller block straight into their backfield with the redeploy, especially if there’s an opportunity to make our opponent go first and open up onto objectives. And if they don’t open up a hole, we’ll just blow one wide open with all those Mortal Wounds.

If they bunker up, we send in mid-size units first to swap our chaff for their chaff, and then rezz a unit or two back as we deliver the killing blow. Between Da Bad Moon, the Totem and the Command Trait, we should regularly be bringing the pain on a 5+.

The Arachnacauldron gives us further buffs to cast and unbind (casting at +3 under Da Bad Moon) and access to another great spell lore – as well as being on brand. The Scuttletide is legit amazing, and we need Cogs to execute our gameplan, seeing as we’re deepstriking and barreling up the board with no native charge buffs.

We have a cheeky Triumph bid, and if we hit lucky with Reroll Hits then look out, because two mortal wounds on every 5+ rerollable is serious fucking business. There’s a fair bit sunk into Endless Spells there, but to put it in context, we could give up all of the Arachnacaudron, the Scuttletide and the Triumph bid, and still not be able to fit in even 5 more Spider Riders.

Yeah nah. If anything, I’d sacrifice the Cauldron for a stronger Triumph bid or CP, but that really is dealer’s choice.

Shit will be dying in droves and you’re gonna be praying for those 4+ summons to hang into the game by your fingernails. Cards on the table, you will sometimes get splattered, but you’ll also occasionally shock a much better army if they deploy badly and disrespect you because “it’s only Spiderfang”. You’ll need to be able to take the rough with the smooth with this army, but for somebody who can live with that, you’ll definitely have your moments.

If you’re reading all of that and thinking that it doesn’t sound like a recipe for consistent success, then I wouldn’t disagree with you. This is probably more of a casual army for me currently; but if you do find a way to make it work competitively, then let me know, because I’m all ears. I’ve got a cupboard full of these things, waiting for their moment in the dank and raring to go.

I would love rules changes to bump these guys up in the next book. One idea that Gary Percival has been kicking about was mortal wounds on their shooting attacks: it fits the fluff (it’s right there on the Warscroll), and it really shouldn’t be too much to ask for what is a pretty expensive unit. Failing that, significant points reductions for Spider Riders could also change everything; the army just looks pretty lightweight currently. A couple of extra units on the board, and we could really be in business.

Poisoned arrows? What poisoned arrows?

Further Reading

The Honest Wargamer have done their own review, with one highlight being the little bombshell that the Arachnarok with Flinger costs more than a Mortek Crawler. Believe me that I don’t say this lightly: that’s just fucking stupid. What a waste of a truly epic model, that could have been actually useful in the army.

Check out Rob and the boys at the link above, brutally honest as always.

If you’re sprinkling some Grots in there, I’ve got my eye on this awesome 3rd-party plastic kit, which is spot-on for the theme of the army:

https://www.shieldwolfminiatures.com/forest-goblin-infantry-hard-plastic.html

Stabbas and Shootas are always an asset, and they could slot right into a debuffing build (with Sneaky D and Geminids), giving you screens to pounce out from with buffed Spider Riders, or just getting down to business and capping points while you have fun zipping around the board with those Skitterstrands.


So there you have it. Cards on the table, I’m a lot less enthused for this drop than I was for Squigs and Troggoths – I just don’t think it does quite enough to overcome the weaknesses in the core units. Where those armies had good, efficient troops, that’s not the case with Spiders; retreat and charge, redeploy and start off the board is all great tech, but without the fundamentals, it’s a house built on sand.

This is sitting squarely as an army I’d take for a spin casually, whereas I am seriously considering running Squigs as a competitive army. Let me know if you think I’ve got that wrong, and good luck to every legend who puts this army on the table. It’ll look fucking epic, and you have balls like King Kong, my friend.


What’s up next? Well at this stage, and as hinted at in my Everwinter Tournament Review, I’m planning on taking a break from AOS and therefore the blog; I’ve been really enjoying Marvel Crisis Protocol, and I’m currently more excited about playing Spiderman than Spiderfang.

Having just read back through my own Review of 2019 I don’t feel like I can muster quite the same brio this time around, but the one award I do need to give out for 2020 is Blog of the Year to the one and only Darren Watson, and his superb Style Series:

https://thehonestwargamer.com/category/darrens-blog-posts/

Read ’em. Read ’em all.

I’ll be back – I still love Warhammer, and I always will – but I’m also looking forward to a break from the game. So let me sign off for now by saying a huge thank you to everyone for all the Likes, Links, Retweets and DMs across the course of the year – I really do appreciate every single one. Here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and good health and hot rolling throughout 2021 and beyond.

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