Age of Sigmar’s most bewildering unit costings (Part 1)
“Cocaine is a wonderful drug.”~ Rick James
by Patrick Neven
Effective costing of units in wargames is a difficult job requiring a comprehensive understanding of a range of different factors. Points per wound, resilience, ranged output, melee output, battlefield role, movement speed, allegiance abilities, price of equivalent units and the state of the meta are just some of the things that factor in to unit pricing. With hundreds of units in the game the designers can be forgiven for getting a few wrong.
Well the Plastic Craic team1 are not mean spirited enough to quibble over minor adjustments. This article is about the points costings that leave us asking, “What the fuck! Are you on Crack?” Well, sometimes they quite clearly have been hitting the pipe like it just left Games Workshop to found a rival hobby company. Do you have any other explanation for the fabled 60pt Hag Queen of AOS 1?
I have decided to nominate a few of my personal favourites amongst the freakishly high and low costings in our beloved game. Let’s see where this strange journey takes us.
Grundstok Thunderers – 135 points (Undercosted)
Well the low hanging fruit is always the sweetest and these bad boys are the lowest hanging fruit in AOS. Seriously, they must have been injecting some of Keith Richards’ blood when they set these guys at 135 points for five. But I’m getting ahead of myself: let’s have a look at the unit.
What are they?
Grundstok Thunders can best be described as heavy short-range missile troops. One champion with a gun and four special weapons with a degree of effects. As a unit they have had a pretty chequered history for effectiveness subjected to the endless stream of nerfs and revisions that have been the hallmark of the KO. In their last incarnation they tended to leave their special weapon options on the shelf and concentrate on rifles. In accordance with time honored GW custom the optimum weapon load out has changed between editions and the best current option is the four special weapons2. With two wounds each and an improved 3 up save they are tough, with output ranging from good to potentially devastating once you start reinforcing units and racking up buffs.
What’s the Problem?
Way too cheap for what they do. Not simply on their warscroll output; it’s the whole ridiculous package. Their available buffs, their mobility, their deployment options, their resilience. Playing against Thunderers leads to an escalating cycle of What the Fucks? that can be best expressed in a play I like to call “What the Aching Fuck?”
KO Player: Ok so I’m moving one unit of 15 up in my flying high Ironclad, doing a combat landing and disembarking 3 inches from your lines.
PC (Poor Chump): “Um, ok.”
KO: And I’ll use my Spell in a Bottle to Soulscream bridge my other unit of 15 into range.
PC: I can’t unbind that can I?”
PC: That’s a good artefact, what’s the Bridge worth nowadays, 80 points?”
KO: (Snorts) No it costs nothing with the artefact.3 Anyways, time for the shooting phase. Start of, I’ll use my Khemists to give an extra point of rend to both my Grundstoks, OK?
PC: Do you need to roll for it?”
KO: Nope but I do need to roll a 2+ to use the grenade thingy that strips the ward from your toughest unit. [Rolls] Hey got it
KO: Right so I’ll start with one unit into your 15-man Blight King unit. Oh wait I’ll use my Grudgebreaker rounds from my Admiral for an additional point of rend and all out attack.
KO: So here we go, 3 rifles at 2 shots each plus 2 from the champion, 2’s and 3’s neg 3 1 damage. [Rolls dice.] Now 3d6 shots from the Fumigator, these are auto hits, wounding on twos, neg 2 rend.
PC: Wait Auto hits, huh?
KO: Yeah. [Rolls dice.] Now for the Decksweepers: 15 shots, 2’s and 3’s, neg 3 rend.
PC: Seriously? [KO rolls dice.]
KO: [Growing increasingly excited.] Now for the big boys, 3 Aethercannon, 2’s and 2’s, -4 rend.
PC: Oh cmon! [KO rolls dice.]
KO: Thats 3 damage each by the way. Now for the Grundstok mortars, they get one shot per enemy in the unit.
PC: Oh for fuck’s sake.
KO: What? It maxes out at 5, thats 15 shots 2’s and 2’s -2 rend. [Rolls dice.]
PC: Well I’ve still got a few left
KO: They’re at neg 1 to hit next turn from suppressing fire. Not that it will matter after the other unit shoots.
PC: [Narrows eyes and stares at oblivious opponent with raw hatred.] How much do these things cost again?
KO: 135 points for five.
PC: What the Aching Fuck!
(An awkward silence descends on the room, the players avoid each other’s eyes as PC regains his calm.)
KO: Anyway on with the rest of my shooting phase. Thanks for making the hour drive to come play me by the way.
I realize the play represents a best case scenario for Grundstok Thunderers4 but I still think it’s the best way to properly represent the thrill of playing a busted unit in a busted army. I could run a few charts comparing Grundstoks to equivalent units like Crossbow Judicators but what would be the point? Anyone but the most rabid KO players knows they are insanely cheap for their output. That’s before you even account for their ridiculously tough 3+ save, 4+ Rally and their inexplicable ability to spit out mortals in combat.5 Still for the sake of argument this is the DPS parse for the unit in the play mentioned above compared to the classic 30 Irondrakes of the Cities of Sigmar shooting twice at plus one to hit, rend and wound.
What do you know the Drakes come out ahead. Except they’re paying an extra 105 points for their damage, they have to cast a Bridge to get anywhere, their shooting gets cut in half if you stand next to them, they don’t have a 4+ Rally, they can’t go in boats etc etc.
What should they cost?
AOS is a dynamic game and units are shooting units in particular are hard to price. Grundstoks are at the high end of ranged DPS but they aren’t Longstrikes or Sentinels spitting out mortals from across the table. They have to be close to do work but they have easy methods of closing the distance and plenty to keep them alive and kicking when they get there. 180 points seems reasonable to me. It would give them a role on the battlefield while putting the option of two murderblobs effectively out of reach and give people a reason to put some Arkanaughts back in KO lists. If you’re a KO player who thinks that’s a bit unfair remember that my beloved Crossbow Judicators still come in at 190 points and reflect on your many sins.
The Glotkin – 650 Points (Overcosted)
Ok so this one is a little bit personal. Not only do I play Nurgle but my Glottkin is easily the single best model I have ever painted. I’m no genius with the brush but I followed an excellent tutorial and the thing looks amazing. I’m pissed that he is too expensive for competitive lists.
My Big Beautiful Boy
What does he do?
As Nurgle aficionados know, The Glottkin is a composite entity composed of the triplet brothers Otto (General and Fighter.) Ethrac (Wizard) and Glurkh (The big ass monster they ride around on). It makes an awesome centrepiece unique unit as a general/wizard/big ass monster. It comes equipped with Warmaster, a signature monstrous action, a unique spell to add wounds to mortal units, the awesome Blightkrieg Command ability6 and his Horrific Opponent special ability (credit for rules to Games Workshop).
Against the right opponent, Big Sexy can really get a roll on sending his enemies fleeing, smashing into his opponents in their movement phase and dragging his own army with him and generally running amok. The sort of unique and entertaining play experience you look for with a big ass God Monster.
What’s the problem?
The Glottkin does a lot of things but he’s not good enough at any of them to justify his points. In combat he tends to hover at around 15 points of damage plus some mortals which is good, but not God Monster good. He has two casts, but no casting buffs. His special abilities are great but situational and pretty easily shut down in Age of Denying Command abilities. 20 wounds 4/5++ seems tough on paper but in a world where Magmadroths now come in at 18 wounds that’s nothing special. In practice he goes down easier than a 3+ Maggoth Lord. Also with a rampaging 5 inch move he is prone to getting left out of the game altogether.
He just doesn’t stack up against the other mid tier God Monsters. Morathi for an extra 50 points hits harder, wizards better, commands better and doesn’t die for at least two battle rounds. At 720 you get Teclis and Kragnos. Models with a host of effects that form the core of entire strats and netlists. Krondys and Karzai are cheaper, better at fighting or magic and a lot tougher. Even a perennial loser like Alarielle puts my boy in the shade for an extra 150 points.
What should he cost?
Unique heroes, particularly God Monsters, are tough to price. You want them at a point where they can turn up in competitive list without being so good or so cheap that they turn up in every list.7 650 points in Nurgle terms is a Bloab and Orghott’s worth of monster horrors and you are never making that deal competitively. Put him at about 1 and 2/3rds of a Maggoth Lord and he will start to turn up. Lets say 520 points, less than Karzai just to piss of the Order players.
A better option would be a new and improved warscroll to make him worth his current points. Up the damage on his miserable one damage shooting attack. Rework his signature spell, give him a casting buff and access to the whole Nurgle mortal lore. Have him apply some leader buff to the rest of your army. Nurgle healing at the start of every phase, battleshock immunity, double his disease range? A man can dream.
Who could resist those puppy dog eyes
1. In this case there really is no I in team but I’m saving the truly minor grievances for my next Khorne article.
2. By best option I don’t mean an extra plus one to hit I mean the special weapons are amazeballs-buy-new-boxes good.
3. Uh-huh an enhancement that gives you free points.
4. For starters there aren’t many units that can absorb all of their shooting.
5. D6 auto hits from the Fumigators wasn’t enough. They must have over-ordered a warehouse full of these kits.
6. Credit where it is due I love this rule. Unique, fun to use and for some reason opponents will always forget that you can still use it on another unit when The Glotkin is in combat.
7. At one point Morathi was showing up in well over 90% of DOK lists. The hardest working woman in Show Business.
Credit for cover image to Games Workshop
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2 thoughts on “YES, THEY ARE ON CRACK”
Umm, in your posted example a unit 15 Blightkings has 61 wounds. Per your own damage analysis, the Thunderer unit is going to do about 30 damage to it (assuming AoD).
I get it, the unit is undercosted in isolation. Yet you need to look at the other things that are needed to make that work. 80 points per unit for the Khemist, 125 points for the Admiral (the real undercosted unit here), and an overcosted Ironclad (500 points!). 150 is reasonable, 180 just bins the unit. But, Irondrakes are 170! Yeah, they are overcosted for what they do and how durable they are. There is a reason they don’t see play anymore.
I understand getting bad touched a few times sucks, but you play Nurgle, you should be used to bad touches.