Thanks to Calvin Rarie, aka Shirtripper, for this review of his excellent recent run at NOVA. Calvin is the brains behind the popular Guide to Bonesplitterz in AOS 3.0 that I was proud to publish here on Plastic Craic, and as 3rd edition continues to evolve, Calvin has jumped back in on the Boyz in Green with great success. Let’s see how it all went down.
Going 4-1 (10th place) at NOVA with Bonesplitterz
After a long hiatus from playing Bonesplitterz competitively – having played it for basically two straight years – I decided to bust them back out after seeing international Bonesplitterz connoisseur PlasticCraic take it to a 4-1 finish at a large tournament in Australia. After seeing his absolute monster of a list, I decided to cobble it together the week before the NOVA Open and try my luck with the reliable ol’ naked Orruks.
The result ended up being a 4-1 finish putting me at 10th overall, thanks to a 3-way tie for 8th place that I lost on tiebreakers out of over 160 players registered for the event. I also managed to snag the Best in Destruction award as the best in GA: Destruction after the Ironjawz player who got 2nd place. After months away from the Waaagh!, it felt very good to be back, and boy can this army do work!
To save time, I’d like to say that my list is almost completely a carbon copy of PlasticCraic’s list which can be found HERE, along with his thoughts behind the unit selections. For the sake of simplicity, everything he says is true – so that lets me focus on my list, what the changes are, and why the changes:
- 2×10 Morboys
- Master of Magic command trait
- Savage Big Boss w/ Great Hunter command trait
- 2×10 Savage Orruks w/ Chompas in Expert Conquerors
The changes are pretty simple: the Great Hunter command trait allows the army to have an 8” pre-game move rather than a 5” pre-game move. If you’ve never played with/against pre-game moves, understand that with enough movement you can capture pretty much any objective before the game has even started. Doing so already starts ratcheting pressure on your opponent’s decision making process. More on this later.
In addition, thanks to Mork’s Boney Bitz (MVP of the tournament), you can pre-game move into range of your opponent’s monsters and quickly get some absolutely outrageous bonuses to cast/unbind/dispel. Getting to +4 against Seraphon felt REAL good.
As for the Morboys swap I sadly just did not have enough ready in time, but I will say the Savages worked better in Expert Conquerors being ever slightly tougher than the basically completely naked Morboys. Pre-game moving effectively 60 bodies onto an objective worked wonders throughout the event. Wounding on 2s on the charge randomly matters a lot as well, especially against armies like Nighthaunt where every blow landed counts.
Beyond that, nothing changed much between the two lists. I probably would swap out Levitate in the future and swap the Savage Orruks back out with the Savage Morboys to open up room for a Burning Head.
The biggest question I keep getting is how important are the Maniak Boarboys when you could just take more Savage Big Stabbas – and the answer is they are VERY important. Mobility is king right now, and being able to move 12-18” to cap back objectives is unbelievably important. Don’t leave home without them.
So what about the Big Stabbas? While they have really efficient combat profiles, their greatest use is the best screening units in the game – thanks to them and the high number of bodies in this list, you can pretty effectively screen out almost the entire board when given the chance.
And with 14 drops, it is really, really likely that your opponent will have priority. In fact, I had more drops than anyone else in the event, and outside of one game I was given the Top of R1 each time. So what do you with a 14 drop nudist colony accompanied by a literal force of nature?
Playing Da List
When one thinks “Orruks” you probably get this idea of heavily armored brutes riding huge pigs and just charging in and murdering anything too stupid to not get out of the way.
Playing that way with Bonesplitterz is a really easy way to lose, and there are a lot of people who unfortunately find this out the hard way.
Instead, Bonesplitterz is the pinnacle in board control technology. Having 14 units lets you counter deploy your opponent, being able to choose when and where to drop your most important pieces. This tactic also allows you to plan out your pregame moves, which is where you start creating an increasingly difficult puzzle for your opponent to figure out. When done well, feel free to keep track of the number of times your opponents go, “What the hell do I do?”
The goal with this list is to make your opponent make increasingly poor choices which have cascading consequences throughout the game, starting in deployment. With many armies in the 6-8 drop range, most people are not used to being counter-deployed or having to be proactive in their decision making process before the game has started. Once deployment is finished, after your pre-game moves, your opponent has to make a very hard choice to either go first and let you dictate the Proving Grounds, or go second and let you get real close, real fast.
To be clear, the army is not a damage dealing one. The most powerful unit in the list is the Wurrgog by far, being able to drop targets way above their weight class, with Maniaks behind them. This brings us to the Incarnate and just why exactly in this list.
The Incarnate in Bonesplitterz plays a bigger role than in any other army, creating a puzzle piece that impacts a massive section of the board that can’t be replicated. Its combat profile isn’t anything to be written home about, but everything else about it is sweet as hell for Bonesplitterz, especially against the top meta, so let me break down its individual abilities and its use cases:
- No retreating: Absolutely cripples Nighthaunt, ties up Morathi for at least 2 rounds, and otherwise chases down fast moving monsters and pins them in place
- Note: please don’t charge the Incarnate into non-Monsters unless you are absolutely certain that its target will die completely, because otherwise you have just locked yourself out;
- +1 to cast/unbind/dispel for the bonded wizard, -1 for everyone else: Just plain good, but gets better against armies with lots of Wizards;
- Re-roll runs and charges: Absolutely critical for closing the gap, which can let units with slow movement like our foot units get stuck in
If you’ve noticed, none of that even mentions killing your opponent’s stuff, because Bonesplitterz is not that good at it at all. Bonesplitterz wins by taking objectives early, boxing your opponents out of said objectives, and denying battle tactics. None of this needs to kill units, as you can pretty easily score 3 out of 5 battle tactics just through the movement phase (Against the Odds, Barge through Enemy Lines, Desecrate Their Lands).
To this end, let’s talk pre-game moves. Since you can move half your BONESPLITTERZ units rounded up, you get 7 total units to move. Depending on the mission I am usually moving:
- Both Wurrgogs
- 3-4 Big Stabba Units
- 0-2 Savage Orruk Units
- 0-2 Savage Boarboy Maniaks
The last one is really matchup dependent – namely if my opponent leaves their Galletian Veterans out in the open to get charged T1, if I am given the turn. This was critical during the Khorne Game.
You really want the Wurrgogs up front ASAP. The bonded one needs to stay out of line of sight as much as possible, while the other with the 4+ ward artefact can get real aggressive if you want. As a heads up, if you are only 18” away from your opponent due to how the deployment zones are set up, an 8” pre-game move puts you into IMMEDIATE Staring Contest range. Also, bonus points for being able to pick your battle tactic and then immediately scoring it with the Wurrgog stare in the hero phase (Eye for an Eye at minimum).
I could go on forever about the weird, complicated, and interesting situations you can put your opponent in just with the pre-game move, the Incarnate, and the Wurrgogs. I want to end this section talking about the WAAAAGH and what it can do as well as Drakkfoot.
The once per game 4+ ward in the combat phase can be absolutely backbreaking for some armies, especially those who are completely committed to the combat phase like Khorne. This incredibly powerful ability lets you do some devastating battle tactic denial that – when combined with the pregame movement – can just outright put the game completely out of reach for your opponents. On the other hand, using the 4+ ward aggressively can let you make devastating charges that makes alternating combats much easier to handle. Typically though, I’m activating the Waaaagh on my opponent’s turn, not mine.
Lastly, there’s Drakkfoot. Besides making Morboys battleline, being able to turn off wards for combat attacks in a meta filled to the brim with wards makes damage way, way more reliably for an army utterly dependent on D1 attacks.
I could probably write a whole book on this topic, so let me summarize it like this:
Bonesplitterz wins by very strategically engaging your opponent, and strategically not engaging your opponent. You are controlling the board, and thus controlling the movement phase of your opponent. The tighter the squeeze, the higher the margin of error, and it is in that space that you can capitalize on mistakes and put the game away.
On to the matchups!
R1: Daughters of Khaine – Khailebron
Close to the Chest vs Zach Pfeifer (Tabletop Titans)
First off, shout out because Zach is the fucking man. Real nice, real awesome dude, with awesome content on his channel. Check him out.
Typically, DoK is a fairly good matchup for Bonesplitterz – Morathi actually isn’t too problematic for us, since the Incarnate can lock her up and put at least 6 wounds on her, while the Wurrgog Stare can let you plink off her wounds at safe range.
That said, this version of DoK is an actual nightmare for this version of Bonesplitterz. Zach was playing with 2×20 Witch Aelves and 2x of the warbands that can teleport in the movement phase. Witch Aelves are annoyingly difficult to kill off when they can rally on a 4+ thanks to possibly the most annoying Command Trait ever printed.
That said, this game went all the way to the bottom of 5 thanks to some great piloting on Zach’s part and an 8” charge out of deepstrike to score 3 points – seriously, why the fuck do book tactics grant extra points??? – which gave him just enough to seal the win thanks to him denying my grand strategy. Turns out when you can teleport all your battleline troops and you can rally on a 4+, it’s hard as hell to score No Place for the Weak. Who knew.
Not a great start, but it was a great game and I was feeling good about my odds going into the next round!
R2: Hedonites of Slaanesh – Pretenders
In the Presence of Idols vs David Ragland
This was David’s 2nd ever tournament having just started playing a few months ago, and was brand, BRAND new to the game. Really cool guy, and super energetic about the game.
David was the only opponent all tournament that took first turn, because he was an absolute mad lad and had a block of 30 Daemonettes he wanted to start fighting with, god-damn it!
This game was not going to be close for him, as his inexperience showed while choosing his tactics. I helped the best I could, but obviously did not want to pilot his list for him. Highlights of the game include my Bonded Wurrgog Prophet almost instantly dying from his Mesmerizing Mirror T1, Sigvald getting to duel an Incarnate to predictable results, and none of the idols killing each other.
David did manage to get a win this tournament, and he seemed to be having a good time. I hope I see him again at more tournaments!
R3: Nighthaunt – Scarlet Doom
Won’t Back Down vs Alex Belanger
What a stressful game, and what a cool opponent. Like David, Alex was newer to the game and this was his 2nd tournament ever as well.
I will be honest, playing against Nighthaunt on a mission where they can rally blocks of Revenants on a 4+ is absolutely nightmarish. Being able to reposition, retreat and charge, the recursion – there’s a reason Nighthaunt is near the top of the meta.
Deployment on this mission against an army that can deepstrike means that you need to be able to appropriately screen out your backfield, which the Savage Big Boss and the Big Stabbas let you do pretty effectively. After leading with deploying the Big Stabbas, I was able to pick and choose where I could drop my Prophets + Incarnate and the rest of my force. Alex did typical nighthaunt deployment, setting up in a castle and putting 20x Revenants and 10x Chainrasps back into reserves. After finishing my pre-game moves, he gives me first turn.
My first turn is pretty straight forward – get off both the Wurrgog warscroll spell and the Jaws, but both are ignored thanks to Myrmourn Banshees being an absolute bitch of a unit. I move up my entire army, being careful to measure out 9” from each of my units, and I use my Expert Conqueror Savage Orruks to cap the center objectives. Incarnate moves up dead center, and the Prophets establish overlapping fields of fire. I score an easy Desecrate and Control 1,2,More.
His T1 involves him moving up the castle in his corner and uses a unit of hexwraiths to engage my units in the bottom half of the board. He scores Against the Odds and Controls 1+2. 5-4 going into R2, and I win priority, and it is go time.
With the trap set, I score an easy Gaining Momentum by blowing up Alex’s lone Hexwraith model still alive. I move up the Incarnate and make a charge dead center into his army, trapping in the process:
- 20x Bladegheist Revenants
- 6x Spirit Hosts
- 4x Myrmourn Banshees
- Spirit Torment
- Guardian of Souls
Nighthaunt is in BAD NEWS BEARS territory here, with over 80% of the table now boxed out. However, Alex is able to drop the Incarnate a level after only dealing 8 damage to it. I rolled an 8 on his test at Battleshock. Oh well.
On his turn, he is in a real pickle at this point – every single thing in his army is now stuck in combat with the Incarnate except for his reserves and the Cruciator. In order to absolutely guarantee getting out of this combat, he ends up committing the Cruciator into combat against the Incarnate. This proves to be fatal for Alex, as coming up I’ll be able to attack it and turn my Bounty Hunters back on.
Either way, he manages to max out the damage on the Incarnate and score Eye for an Eye. He dropped his Chainrasps and Bladegheist Revenants out of deepstrike, and being on 25mm bases the Chainrasps manage to squeeze in a corner I failed to box out. He fails the charge out of deepstrike in both cases and scores 4.
I win priority into 3 and now I have to be proactive – which is not something Bonesplitterz is good at. I elect to go for Eye For An Eye, and I set up charges into the Cruciator, Spirit Hosts, Chainrasps, and the Revenant that had deepstriked in last round. I make all of my charges with both units of Maniaks and the Savage Orruks up top and declare WAAAGH – the only aggressive WAAAGH declared all tournament. Now that I don’t have to worry about my Maniaks dying before being able to fight, I can safely activate my charging Savage Orruks first, and put all of their attacks into the Cruciator, killing it exactly.
With it gone, my Maniaks can deal immense damage to my opponent’s troops which – thanks to Drakkfoot – puts Nighthaunt firmly into save-or-die territory. The Spirit Hosts get killed outright, and the 20 Revenants get mauled. I score max.
The next few turns are absolute meat grinders that see Alex’s forces get whittled away, and I manage to claw through a pretty devastating double turn from him. The last turn of the game before he concedes sees me turn an objective near my remaining Wurrgog with the Glowing Tattoos into the Proving Grounds. He declares Gaining Momentum, intending to kill the Wurrgog with Reikenor and the remaining Revenants that he has. He moves Reikenor first to set up a charge, and I redeploy away from the objective, rolling a 6. Doing so means he can longer retreat and charge with his revenants to both kill the Wurrgog AND cap the objective. The game pretty much ends there.
Of note: Alex and I both discovered the hard way that to get the improved Rally on this mission, you need to be wholly within the objective. Absolute killer of a game, and a great way to end the day at 2-1!
R4: Blades of Khorne – Reapers of Vengeance
Realmstone Cache vs Cody Siverston
Cody is another great player, sitting near or at the top of the Khorne ITC rankings with an absolutely gorgeous army to boot.
Realmstone Cache is an incredibly awkward mission for certain armies–but not Bonesplitterz or Khorne. While Bonesplitterz attempts to control the board, Khorne seeks to make the blood flow, and flow quickly. Cody is playing Skarbrand, Boom Thirster (Insensate Rage) and the Pile-In Thirster (Unfettered Fury) alongside the Khorne Daemon Prince, an Incarnate, and a smattering of Blood Reavers and Flesh Hounds
With a tight deployment zone, Cody deploys his battleline up front with all of his monsters just behind his battleline. I outdrop him, moving up 3x units of Big Stabbas (one on the objective), both units of Maniaks and both Wurrgogs. After some rumination, Cody decides to give me the first turn–and declares the sole objective the Proving Grounds.
With the roided up bonded Wurrgog within 24” of all of his monsters, I go for the Ravenak’s Gnashing Jaws, casting it on a casual 15–which I’m pretty sure is the single highest casting roll I’ve ever made. I manage to tag Skarbrand with it on a 15 on the 3d6, and deal 7 mortal wounds to him. I then go for the Wurrgog’s signature spell, which goes off on a 11 and proceed to deal exactly 1 mw to the Blood Reavers.
In the movement phase, I rush up my middle unit of Big Stabbas and both units of Maniaks and elect to charge in to kill all of his Battleline, keeping a unit of Savage Orruks tip-toeing the objective. All of his Blood Reavers die and the Flesh Hounds live, but more importantly I’ve brought in all of his Bloodthirsters – including Skarbrand who has to fight – into combat. I score max and pass.
Now on his turn he elects to dispel the Jaws and move back Skarbrand so he can fight on his best profile in the next round, while moving up his Incarnate and the rest of his Bloodthirsters to engage the center. He scores an easy Eye-for-an-Eye killing the unit of Maniaks that managed to live through the previous turn, and moves up his Flesh Hounds to try to take the center objective. Expert Conquerors Orruks ensures I keep the center, and all I lose are two units of Big Stabbas – one of which deals huge damage to the Incarnate, dropping it a level in the process.
I win priority, and pick a pretty straightforward Gaining Momentum. One Wurrgog lasers off the remaining Flesh Hounds – scoring me my Grand Strategy in the process – while the other Wurrgog drops the Boom Thirster. I shift my units around and turtle harder on the center. Meanwhile, two units of Big Stabbas and the Morboys + other Savage Orruks are moving up the right side trying to get towards his deployment zone to deny him his grand strategy. I score max and pass.
On his turn, Cody commits Incarnate to the center to try and score Gaining Momentum, and tries to clear off the unit of Savage Orruks standing on the center objective. I declare Waaagh, and one Savage Orruk sticks around thanks to Inspiring Presence and he scores a flat zero points that turn.
I lose priority into 3 and the objectives explode–one on his side and one on mine. I declare objective on his side the Proving Grounds, meaning that to score his objective he has to burn Blood Tithe to summon Bloodletters to capture it. He shifts up his Pile-In Thirster and his Daemon Prince to threaten a fight in the center and position for the next turn. Cody’s Incarnate kills the remaining Savage Orruk and frees itself from combat. He scores 3 points and passes.
On my turn, I elect to put Mystic Shield onto my Incarnate and go for the killing blow on Cody’s Incarnate. I continue to move up my units on the right side of the table, inching closer to his territory, and thanks to some hot dice I deal 14 damage to his Incarnate while my own only takes 6. His incarnate dies, and now I have an incarnate threatening his entire line. I score 3 and pass.
Cody wins priority and takes the turn, and decides to attempt the “Kill a Wizard” battle tactic and – with no other choice – 4-1moves in Skarbrand to finish off the Incarnate. He summons in the Boom Thirster again just outside of the Warded Wurrgog and fails his deepstrike charge. Skarbrand does a casual 16 MWs to the Incarnate who doesn’t do much else and just dies on the spot.
At the bottom of R3, I laser Skarbrand to death with a Wurrgog Prophet, and begin to turtle up onto my back objective, having done everything I need to put the game away. We talk it out, and I manage to score 7 more points while he only gets 4 to end the game over the next two turns. Only one round left to go!
R5: Seraphon – Thunder Lizard
Silksteel Nests vs Michael Sabetti
Seraphon is bullshit. Michael, however, is a BOSS. This was the game of the weekend for sure. I will be honest, though – this game was such a mind bender that details are sparse. After 12 hours of gaming and way too little sleep, details are a bit hazy on this one.
I counter deploy his Stegadons with my Wurrgog, and pre-game move up my Wurrgogs, both units of Savage Orruks, and some Big Stabbas. The goal being if I go first, my Bonded Wurrgog will get the best chance to actually get spells off. Michael’s list consisted of a Skink Chief on Steg, Skink Priest on Steg, a Solar Engine Bastiladon, a Slann, and 30 Skinks with Blowpipes and some other units.
He gives me T1 and I go for Barge. In my hero phase I get Jaws off on a 14, which the Slann fails to unbind. I roll a fat 16 and manage to dome the Bastiladon down to 5 wounds remaining thanks to some sick ward rolls from Michael. The same wurrgog also manages to cast his warscroll spell, which the Slann also failed to unbound. I move up both of my units of Savage Orruks up the middle with the intent to charge straight into his territory and get both charges off. Thanks to the power of Expert Conquerors I steal an objective from underneath him and score max points, including a +1 from having two GVs do the Barging. The rest of the army shuffled around to protect the flanks, while the Incarnate walks up the center to create a roadblock.
At the bottom of 1, Michael fails a dispel from the Slann – which felt good, not going to lie – setting up the Bastiladon to just straight up die from the Jaws. After the typical ridiculously long Seraphon hero phase that saw the healing spell unbound, the Jaws moved, deal 5 mortal wounds to the Bastiladon…and he rolls a single 6 to keep it alive with 1 wound left. DAMMIT.
After some shuffling, the combined shots + Curse on the Savage Orruks sees them shot to death and then killed in combat. He only scores 4, unable to take any of my objectives. At the bottom of 1, Michael has basically not left his deployment zone yet.
This proves important because he wins priority into R2 and takes the double, but only has a limited amount of options for battle tactics, given that his entire army has to slog forward just to leave his deployment zone. One long hero phase later, and he moves up to create a hard barrier between me and his center objectives. His flanks are more or less guarded by the Skink Chief Steg and some Temple Guard. He scores 4 again.
On the bottom of 2, I decide the time has come to do something about his flanks. One Wurrgog fails all of his spells – rolling hilariously poorly – and the other fails his as well. Not a good start.
I move up my troops to create blocking lanes against his skinks and Stegadon to set up a crucial turn of combat later on, the goal being to continue to score max points and deny him critical points on his own turns. I score a pretty easy Against the Odds, and turtle up in the center again while running up and grabbing his objective on my righthand side. I score max again.
I lost priority into 3 and have a very difficult decision tree ahead. Seraphon is notoriously strong at making up lost ground, and I absolutely cannot let him have too much room to act unilaterally. At this point I have banked up my WAAAGH to set up a trap turn, and this proved to be that turn.
After a fairly uneventful hero phase, Michael moves up his skinks and the Stegadon, with the Skinks being careful to stay away from the Incarnate. The bonded Wurrgog gets shot to death and sets loose the Incarnate for the first time all tournament. At this point I have positioned the Maniaks along the flank to take his back objectives back from him, and thanks to the power of the WAAAGH! – and some careful positioning – the Stegadon fails to capture an objective and also fails to kill the Maniaks outright. He scores 4 again.
At the bottom of 3, I retreat the Maniak out of combat and onto his back objective. I decided to go for gold and committed the Incarnate into the Stegadon, while the Morboys move in to attempt a long charge on his Skinks. Given that they are in bounty hunters, the Morboys connecting would kill the Skinks outright.
I, of course, fail the charge, but the Krondspine and the Stegadon trade blows, with the Stegadon dropping to 8 wounds remaining and the Incarnate dropping a level. I blow up his back left objective with the one Maniak who ran in there and blew that shit up like that one Uruk-Hai in the Two Towers. You know the scene, it was awesome.
Fun fact: Skink Chiefs on Stegadons are only Bravery 5. The Chief fails the Silksteel Nests test and eats 3 mortal wounds. I fail my battle tactic – the only one all tournament and I complete forget what it was – and only score 3.
Michael wins priority into R4 and goes for Head-to-Head–his Skinks versus my Morboys. With the Stegadon Chief out of range of the healing spells, Michael is forced to rush over the Skink Priest to attempt to heal the Skink Chief and fails to heal it! The Skinks move up and I redeploy the Morboys, but not far enough and the Skinks make their charge, killing the Morboys outright.
Meanwhile, the Skink Priest tag teams the Incarnate, but after the Morboys die to an Orruk, the Incarnate does exactly enough damage to kill the Skink Chief on Stegadon, which levels the Incarnate up in time for it to go back down after the Skink Priest jacks him up. He scores a max of five, having finally taken one of my objectives from me, but not close enough to the center to burn it.
At the bottom of 4, the Bounty Hunter Maniaks charge in and murder the Skinks, scoring me my Grand Strategy. With the game unwinnable at this point, we talk out the last round and that seals the 4-1 victory and 10th place overall!
This is a 5-0 list. Full stop. I felt in control all of my games and at no point did I feel that I was getting overpowered. Seraphon is, of course, an absolute nightmare to play against no matter how good you are, but besides that I did not feel that there was ever a situation that I did not have agency in – which for an event as big as NOVA is all you can hope for in your army.
I am admittedly bummed that I lost on tiebreakers into top 8, because I felt confident that I could have ran the gauntlet provided that exhaustion didn’t kill me first. 10th place and Best Destruction are great consolation prizes though, and I felt very, VERY good about the weekend.
Thanks for reading this graduate level thesis about an army filled with naked dudes. Shout outs to James O’Brien for running my most favorite tournament yet – kudos to PlasticCraic for the list tech and being a great sounding board – and most of all thanks to my Georgia Warband Teammates for being my constant cheerleader.
See you cool kids at LVO! If you have any questions, feel free to reach me on Discord (Calvin#6383) or on the Orruk Warclans facebook page. #BigBoss
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