Lukewarm Takes on Gossamid Archers

Although it’s been overtaken by more recent announcements, it’s fair to say this warscroll caused quite a stir when it first leaked, with my own Twitter feed hosting part of that debate. While it’s no longer the hot topic that it was a few weeks ago, now that I’m back behind the keyboard I do want to explain my thoughts on the unit in a slightly more nuanced way than I managed on the socials. Specifically, I want to get on record that I don’t think they’re overpowered – but that I still don’t like the design, and the reasons why.

The original thread is right here for anyone who has a lot of time on their hands and wants to catch up on it:

It obviously stirred up a big reaction, predictably enough given the provocative wording. And if you’re wondering about the tonal shift from the aggressive tweet to the way I generally write on here, the difference between the two is mainly a cracking headache.

I’ll always defend someone’s right to a voice on these kinds of subjects, and it seems a lot of people agreed with the substance if not the tone (and a lot didn’t, too). All the same this tweet wasn’t how I would usually express myself, so hopefully I can explain my thoughts a little more clearly here today.

Are they any good?

The warscroll’s right there, and what it’s giving you is rapid movement from a 12″ flying move, a bit of reach and damage before the charge phase. What it doesn’t have is devastating output – it really is “Sixes or bust”. While they have spike potential, in practice it’s just irritating sprinkle damage.

At 215 points for 5, and on an incredibly lightweight chassis, they seem brutally underpowered for their cost. What you’re paying for is the heavyweight anti-combat tech: someone charges you, you shoot them up, and on a 2+ you retreat away again. As a rule it’s utterly debilitating to combat armies, but boy are you paying through the nose for it.

Honestly, if I had the opportunity to include this unit in any of my own armies – I’d pass.

But we haven’t even seen the book yet

Correct, and it’s true that they will only get better with Allegiance Abilities on top. One thing we can quite confidently predict is that they’ll have a lot of teleporting through scenery, so they’ll at least have a delivery mechanism for that buckshot. 12″ range isn’t such a big problem when you can pop up where you need to.

We’ll see what else they get in the book – buffed Rally seems to be flavour of the month currently, so there may be a situation where they shoot you up, retreat and then Rally back any losses they have taken since they are now out of combat.

But while there is potential upside in this scroll, I’d be seriously surprised if it was enough to make them truly competitive at these points. There will doubtless be a story that pops up somewhere about them spiking a hole bunch of Mortal Wounds at a crucial time, but really, if the new Sylvaneth book is consistently tearing up the top tables, I doubt that it will be due in large part to Gossamids.

So why the tantrum then?

Because I was hungover from the previous night’s antics my concern is not that they are overpowered. My concern is that their core function – i.e. shitting on armies that try to fight them – is bad design by its nature.

The issue with the design

So let me run through why specifically I take issue with Gossamid Archers:

• Shooting that procs Mortal Wounds on 6s is getting beyond tedious at this point

• I really dislike rules that make life harder for melee armies. I’m aware that things like Skinks, Foxes and so on have even worse rules – and I don’t like them either. “Less annoying than Foxes” is not the ringing endorsement that some people believe it to be

• The warscroll is intrinsically hard to balance. It’s potential is so game-warpingly powerful that you end up having to overcost the unit, and hang those rules on a frame with no fundamentals

The upshot is that we have here a Warscroll that is nigh-impossible to balance effectively. There are a few ways to play around it – for example, with my Ironjawz hat on I’m immediately looking at Hero Phase charges to circumvent Unleash Hell – but the easiest answer is to bring shooting of your own, and that is exactly what I don’t like about this tech.

We know that a major part of the design brief for 3rd Edition was to give players more ways to interact, and to stay occupied and engaged in the game on their opponent’s turn. The most interactive part of this game is combat – we already fight on both players’ turns, and alternate interactions. Therefore the best and most natural way to promote interactivity in Age of Sigmar is already right there in front of you – look after combat, and people will naturally interact.

Fundamentally the issue here is that Gossamids are designed to make life hard for combat armies and easy for ranged armies, so by its very existence this scroll makes the game just that little bit worse.

Why does that even matter if they’re a bit shit and you’ll rarely see them?

Well for starters, it matters to Sylvaneth players, who’ve ended up with an overpointed new toy – but if it does end there, then so be it. The danger is that history shows us that when AOS goes down a rabbit hole, it goes all the way. Remember the Activation Wars, anyone?

Or putting it another way: I don’t want to see a bad Mortal Wound shooting unit that retreats after Unleash Hell, in case it’s then a matter of time until we see a good Mortal Wound shooting unit that retreats after Unleash Hell. We know that train is never late.

Want an example? Rally started off on a 6+ and then very quickly got buffed for Ardboyz (albeit under tightly-managed conditions). A combat unit that hits on 4s with damage 1 (and 1″ reach on 32mm bases) is hardly the stuff that nightmares are made of, so it was a neat way of giving some basic troops a real USP in a very ringfenced way. And there was no way you were doing it to Brutes.

Fast forward a few months and you’ve got some top players Rallying back surreal volumes of deadly combat troops:

So that’s why it matters. It matters because these kind of rules are currently on a sprinkling of units, and the danger is that it proliferates from here.

In Summary

In a nutshell, I think that Gossamids are sweet minis and it’s a shame they didn’t get a warscroll that will see more play. As it stands I think this is the worst of all worlds: frustrating to play against for a lot of opponents, yet underpowered for the Sylvaneth players.

So I hope that explains a little bit why I’m not a fan of Gossamid Archers even though they are far from busted. Putting them in the rear view mirror, I’m super keen for the General’s Handbook and the leaks have got me buzzing with list ideas, so I’ll try and do that some kind of justice with coverage here on the blog. I’ve also got a product review lined up that I really want to hit you with in the next week or two, as well as the Thondia campaign we’ve got underway locally, so I’m aiming to crack the keyboard out regularly again moving forward.

Have a good weekend ladies and gents, and here’s to a weekend of wild speculation and frantic listbuilding. See you on the other side.


Credit for the cover image to Games Workshop

https://ko-fi.com/plasticcraic

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