Monday, 5 March 2012

Lores of Magic: Da Big Waaagh!

OK, so it's been a while since I reviewed a Lore of Magic. Time to get back on the wagon...

The Orcs and Goblins army book was one of the first to be re-released after the introduction of 8th edition. The greenskins are a popular army, and one of the most important from a GW marketing perspective. As such, they get a lot of love and attention when it comes to things like updating the army list. This helped them jump the queue in terms of some other armies that really needed an update, however hopefully the current book will be around for a while now that it’s here.

Greenskin magic is divided into two Lores – Da Big and Little Waaagh! Da Big Waaagh! is used exclusively by Orc and Savage Orc Shamans, whilst Da Little Waaagh! is restricted to Goblin and Night Goblin Shamans. Today we are going to look at the Lore for the Orcs.
Orcs, orcs, orcs, orcs, orcs...
What does is do?
The Lore Attribute for Da Big Waaagh! is the Power of Da Waaagh! I know all these things having similar titles can get confusing, but you have to bear in mind that the vocabulary of your average Orc is not the greatest – they make do with what they’ve got, and use their favourite word a lot. The effect of the Attribute is that any spells from Da Big Waaagh! with a Strength value (or granting a Strength bonus) gains +1 Strength if there are more friendly units in combat (anywhere on the table) than there are fleeing. This criterion is not difficult to meet, and with all but two of the spells in the Lore using Strength in some way, you can expect this Attribute to come into play frequently.

Gaze of Mork is the Signature Spell in Da Big Waaagh! It is a Direct Damage spell that draws a line 4D6” (8D6” when boosted) from the caster’s base. Any models touched by the line suffer a Strength 4 hit. The effectiveness of spells like this is very situational. In general terms, you’re normally better off with a spell that inflicts perhaps 2D6 hits on a single target, as it allows you to concentrate the spell’s damage on a single target, rather than spreading it across a number of units. However, if you can get a line through your target that provides a lot of hits, a spell like this can come into its own.

When the army book was published, Gaze of Mork was declared to be a Direct Damage spell. However, in their wisdom GW removed this in an FAQ, making the rules regarding the spell less clear. Taken literally, this then allows the spell to hit friendly models, provided they are not in combat.

There is one other consideration here. It is unclear in the rules (be they the rulebook, the army book, or any FAQs) as to whether a character benefits from the Look Out Sir! rule when hit by Gaze of Mork. The spell draws a line from point-to-point, but does not state that it is a template. I would argue that it is in fact a template, like a cannon bounce (and Crack's Call has been FAQed in this manner), however this is not actually stated for Gaze of Mork, and not everyone seems content with using precedents such as this when it doesn't suit their purpose. If you chose to interpret that the spell can pick characters out of a unit, its potential increases the spell's effectiveness. I don’t believe this was the intent of the rules, but beware that your opponent might see fit to declare otherwise.

Brain Bursta is a basic character-sniping spell. It inflicts a Strength 5 hit on a single model within range. When boosted by the Lore Attribute, this means you will wound most characters on a 2+. Only being able to do a single wound at a time limits this spell's outright potential, however it will more likely come in useful within the context of a game. Obviously you could simply use the spell to knock the odd wound off a target (and with repeated castings could remove a multi-wound target with this spell alone), however Brain Bursta will more likely affect the game in a situation such as:

  • Eliminating a unit champion carrying a magic item or likely to interfere with a future combat through a challenge
  • Reducing a wizard to a single wound, making any subsequent miscast highly likely to be fatal
  • Finishing off a wounded model (character or otherwise) that narrowly escaped destruction from another source, such as 'Eadbutt (more on this later), a stone thrower or a tight combat
Fists of Gork is a rather frustrating inclusion in the Lore. The spell Remains in Play, and gives the Shaman +3 Strength and +3 Attacks, and a 6+ ward save. Given that Orc Shamans are not great fighters in the first place, the chances are that you will normally be keeping him out of combat, and this spell will only be of use in an emergency. One possible exception is a Savage Orc Shaman who has been included in a good unit of Savage Orcs for them to benefit from the Lucky Shrunken Head. In this case it is unlikely that the Shaman's contribution will make a huge difference to the combat, as his mates probably have it covered.

The other exception might be if you decided to plant your Shaman on a Wyvern. In this case you have the combination of a useful fighter in the monster, and a pretty miserable one on top. Fists of Gork will allow the Shaman to contribute, provided he can get past his lousy Weapon Skill (an item like the Fencer's Blades might help, but you wouldn't want to be including them mainly with this spell in mind).

The Hand of Gork is a spell with far more potential. It moves the target unengaged friendly unit up to 3D6" (5D6" when boosted). The obvious use of this spell is to move a dangerous unit behind enemy lines, either to threaten flanks and rears, or vulnerable targets such as war machines. You can't use The Hand of Gork to charge, however there will be a limit to how much the enemy can do to react before you get to move again, particularly if the rest of your forces are closing in from the other direction. The spell is not expensive (9+), and even boosted is only a 14+.

There are some more cunning uses for this spell than simply moving a dangerous combat unit around. Night Goblin units laden with Fanatics would love nothing more than to be dropped just over 1" from an enemy unit. The Fanatics can't fail to reach when they are immediately released, and if you lined it up right, you could send them hurtling through several units at once (remember that they need about a 3" gap between units to stop the Fanatic simply carrying on, far past its rolled distance). The potential for damage is considerable. Being able to drop a Mangler Squig immediately in front of (or behind) a valuable enemy unit is also very handy.

'Eadbutt is the second sniper spell in the Spells of the Big Waaagh! Unlike Brain Bursta however, 'Eadbutt is restricted to targeting an enemy wizard within 4D6" (8D6" when boosted). This limits its potential uses, however it compensates for this by being potentially fatal in its own right. The spell inflicts a Strength 4 hit doing D3 wounds, ignoring armour saves. Provided that this is boosted to Strength 5 by the Lore Attribute, it is highly likely to kill a wizard outright (provided they don't have a good ward save). So the spell is not really versatile, but it is definitely dangerous against the right targets.

'Ere We Go! is an augment spell that affects all Orc units within 2D6", and grants rerolls to hit in close combat for one full turn. Given that Orcs of various varieties do not have fantastic Weapon Skill, this is a useful spell. Provided the Shaman has stayed close to your Savage Orc Big'Uns and Black Orcs, you can expect to significantly boost the damage potential of the units. The variable range is not a big deal, so long as your positioning of the Shaman is good.

It is unfortunate that 'Ere We Go! only affects Orcs, and thereby ignores some of the other dangerous units in the Orc and Goblin army (such as Squigs and Trolls). The spell also fails to address the other key failing of Orc combat units, which is Initiative. Enemy units will frequently attack before your Orcs can, unless they are using great weapons. This means you still need to be able to absorb the damage the enemy inflicts before you can dish out the pain in return - you will just get more mileage from your attacks with 'Ere We Go! in play.

The final spell in the Spells of the Big Waaagh! is Foot of Gork. It uses a special template that is around the same size as a small blast marker, however it is shaped like a giant green foot. The template can scatter D6", however when it lands, it hits very hard. Models touched by the template suffer a Strength 6 (or Strength 7 if the Lore Attribute comes into play) hit, doing D3 wounds.

The spell can be boosted for a meagre increase of +3 on the casting roll, allowing Gork's foot to descend multiple times. After resolving the hit, on a 4+ it stomps on another target (or the same target if you so choose). On a 2 or 3 the spell ends, and on a 1 your opponent gets to choose the next target before the spell is over.

Tales already abound of players stomping numerous times in a single turn, reducing a powerful unit to paste and having a massive impact on the game. Obviously this is a possibility, however it takes some good rolling for a unit to be hit properly more than a couple of times. Nevertheless, the potential for damage is obvious, and the ability to concentrate on a single target rather than having to move on makes the spell a lot more dangerous than it might otherwise be.

How will it be used?

The Big Waaagh is the more straight-forward of the two Lores available to Orcs and Goblins, with 4 spells that inflict damage to one or more targets. This reflects the less cunning nature of Orcs, who prefer a more straight-up, aggressive approach to matters than their smaller Goblin kin. Nevertheless, the Lore also offers the ability to enhance some of your better combat units, as well as a movement spell that can be combined with Goblin trickery to good effect.

Given that the choice of using the Big or Little Waaagh is determined by your choice of Orc or Goblin Shaman, some players may find themselves having elements of each, even if they didn't really fancy the Lore in question. Orc Shamans can't ride an Arachnarok and Goblin Shamans can't take the Lucky Shrunken Head.

In my opinion the Big Waaagh is a mix of good spells and weak ones. Gaze of Mork is a poor Signature Spell, and unlikely to ever be the decisive factor in a game. Fists of Gork is situational, and even when the time is right it will be a little bit useful at best. On the other hand, Hand of Gork could be the key to controlling a game, whilst the Foot of Gork offers the potential to cripple key enemy units. As a rule, a good Signature Spell is the key to a Lore being good for low-level Shamans. The Big Waaagh lacks this. Its mix of good and bad means you really need a high level Shaman to get the most out of the Lore.


  1. Hello there!
    You got a fantastic blog with interesting reports with the right kind of humor. The battle reports are great, you and your friends put a lot energy and enthusiasm into this hobby.
    The reviews of the magic lores is also very useful for planning games, building armies and try to get something what ist worth to be called a plan.
    But at the moment I´m playing the real might in the warhammer world - Skaven.
    It would help the council of the thirteen a lot when you could show them (me) how to get the most of the two magic lores.
    Be sure, I won´t stop reading this blog (and being happily entertained at the same time) when you don´t have the time (or if you don´t plan to support Skaven to rule the world).
    While reading your reports I wonder why the heck did I sell my Empire army?
    Cheers from cologne!

    1. You're right, the Skaven lores somehow never quite made it. No doubt if I review their lores now, they will immediately get a new army book and make all my efforts pointless. On the bright side, that would mean you got a new book!

      And yes, why did you sell your Empire? Can't have been the right thing to do...


  2. I still play 8th edition rather than 9th. What I've noticed is that players seem to think magic resistance is redundant as it only protects against damage from spells. I've been looking at it and it seems that there are a lot of spells that would be countered by magic resistance. What are your thoughts on the subject?

    1. I'm not entirely sure what you're asking. Are you saying how good do I think it is, given that it only protects against damaging spells? Or whether I think it should affect other spells (like hexes) that directly affect the target?

      As a rule, magic resistance varies in its usefulness. The more likely a unit is to be targeted by damage magic, the better the mileage you will get from it. So units like heavily armoured knights and creatures with regeneration are good choices because magic is often the most efficient way to ignore armour or negate regeneration - so the extra protection becomes worthwhile. For a regular unit which can just be shot to death with arrows, it's probably not worth getting magic resistance - because your enemy will just throw their spells somewhere else (and shoot that unit to death with arrows).

    2. Yeah, I was just wondering what your thoughts were on the topic. In my next game I'm planning to use some magic resist against my friends vampire counts so a couple of units get a ward save against curse of years and gaze of nagash. The aim is to force him to target my expendeple(ish) wood elf units.

    3. What I also realised from the topic was that some players thought magic resist gave protection against magic weapons or dwarf runic magic. But looking deeper into it I think GW actually managed to balance something in the game quite nicely.