Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Lores of Magic: Da Little Waaagh!

We have already looked at the spells of Da Big Waaagh! so it is now time to consider the other option open to Orc and Goblin players - Da Little Waaagh! Just as Da Big Waaagh! is restricted to Orc Shamans only, this Lore is restricted to Goblin and Night Goblin Shamans. So for people fielding all-Orc or all-Goblin lists the decision is already made for them, but for everyone else the choice is there to be made.
Goblin Shamans are sneaky, and their Lore matches their mentality

What does is do?
The Lore Attribute for Da Little Waaagh! is Sneaky Stealin'. Every time a Little Waaagh! spell gets through the enemy defences (whether they failed to dispel it, could not, or chose not to), you roll a D6. On a 5 or 6 you steal a dice from the opponent's dispel pool and add it to your power pool.

Sneaky Stealin' is interesting, because it encourages the player to cast a wave of smaller spells, rather than gathering all the dice together for a single big attempt. A number of successful castings will make it very hard for your opponent to stop them all, and each time one gets through, the situation can become worse and worse for him as you pilfer bonus dice whilst draining his defences. It may mean Goblin players will throw dice at seemingly unimportant spells, simply on the off chance that the opponent lets them through and runs the risk of losing dispel dice being held for the more important stuff.

The Goblin Signature Spell is Sneaky Stabbin' (not to be mistaken for Sneaky Stealin' as described above - Goblins are very sneaky). The spell is cheap (6+) with no option to boost it, which is unfortunate given its limited range of 12". It grants the target friendly unit the Armour Piercing rule in close combat. Perhaps more significantly however, it also grants them rerolls to hit and wound when they are in an enemy's flank or rear. Whilst that is obviously situational, on a decent combat unit it could be devastating.

As a Signature Spell, Sneaky Stabbin' is rather good. It's dirt cheap to cast (a lesser wizard with nothing better to do could throw a single dice at it), and Armour Piercing is a useful upgrade for a number of the better Orc and Goblin combat units who often fight at Strength 5. That is decent for wounding most targets, however opponents with good armour may still get solid saves against it. The extra hit on armour would be very welcome against units such as Empire and Chaos Knights, with their 1+ saves.

When there is the threat of getting a powerful unit into the enemy's flank, this spell could suddenly become a main focus of the enemy's dispel dice. The potential to have multiple copies of the spell could be very telling in that situation.
Vindictive Glare is a cheap magic missile with a solid range. It does 2D6 S3 hits, which can be boosted to 3D6. This sort of spell is ideal for crippling, panicking or removing small, annoying units from the enemy's lines. It's not likely to make a real impression on strong troops, but then that is not really what it is for. Peppering the target with low Strength hits is also effective against targets like war machines (where Strength often doesn't matter unless it is 6 or more), however the range of 24" may become a factor there.

Gift of the Spider-god gives a unit within 12" Poisoned Attacks. As with Sneaky Stabbin', there is no boosted version of the spell. If cast on a unit that already has Poisoned Attacks, the poison hits occur on a 5+ instead of a 6+. Having said that, the only places you will find Poisoned Attacks are on various spiders, and on a unit that includes the Spider Banner. As amusing as this plan may be on a monstrous unit of Goblins with short bows, needing to include an unprotected BSB for the banner (which costs a whopping 85pts) means you have invested a whole lot in a plan that will probably only be moderately effective. As such, I'd say you will most commonly see the spell used to grant normal Poisoned Attacks to a regular unit.

Granting Poisoned Attacks is of most use to units that can produce a lot of attacks, with a fairly low Strength. Attacks that were probably going to wound anyway (Strength 5 and above) means you don't get a lot of mileage from the poison. You want to be rolling a fistful of dice with low expectations, on the off chance that you roll a pile of 6s to hit. Massed Goblins with short bows are indeed a likely candidate, as are regular Savage Orcs with additional hand weapons.

However the spell is used, it will always be based on a plan of optimism (unless you are fighting something with a massive Toughness like a War Sphinx). You are hoping to roll a disproportionate number of 6s to hit - something that can happen any time, but that often doesn't really matter. Your target will often be a moderate (or worse) unit, so the plan is to try to squeeze something out of nothing. If you have nothing in your army, it's as good a plan as any...

For me, Itchy Nuisance is the key spell to the Little Waaagh! It's a hex spell with a 24" range, although once again it has no boosted version. The spell knocks D6 from the target's Movement and Initiative. You may occasionally find a good use for lowering a unit's Movement, but the main importance of the spell is the Initiative.

Orcs and Goblins can field some very potent combat units. Savage Orc Big'Uns, Squigs, Black Orcs and Trolls are all capable of dishing out huge numbers of Strength 5 attacks, which puts them toward the pointy end of effective units. They often have only moderate Weapon Skill, however their universal problem is Initiative. In the case of Squigs, attacking first is essential. They fight like demons, however they are only Toughness 3. At Initiative 3, they will often find themselves going last, and they will die in droves. The loss of damage potential will be crippling. Trolls and Orcs are tougher, however they are even slower (and more expensive - so probably less numerous) than the Squigs.

Being able to drop the enemy's Initiative gives the chance that your rather dangerous unit will have the chance to swing first for a change. In the case of Squigs this is critical, and it's a handy thing for the other units too, especially if they're facing stern opposition. As such, Itchy Nuisance can become a key spell if you were pinning your hopes on winning combats to win the battle.

Gork'll Fix It is another unboostable hex spell with a range of 24". It forces the target to reroll hit, wound and armour save rolls of 6 for a full turn. This can serve to generally slow down a decent unit and reduce its effectiveness, however it can really mess with units that were banking on Poison Attacks or Killing Blow to get the job done.

Assuming these things are not a factor however, you will get the best results from targeting a unit that relies on massed attacks with only moderate stats behind them. Forcing an enemy to reroll 6s to wound when they wound on a 2+ anyway is fairly trivial - most of the rerolls will wound, and you won't have knocked off much effectiveness. However, if they are peppering your Orcs with Strength 3 attacks and needing 5+ to wound, you are forcing them to reroll half of their wounds, and two thirds of the rerolls should fail. That becomes very significant.

Wherever it is used, Gork'll Fix It increases the chances of something going badly wrong due to rolling. Most players will not want this spell affecting anything important and will do their best to keep it from getting into play. That alone can make it useful.

Unfortunately, Night Shroud is a pretty disappointing spell. It grants the Shaman's unit soft cover and means that any models that charge into contact with them must take a Dangerous Terrain test. This can be boosted to affect all units within 12", however the casting value shoots up from a 9+ to a 15+.

If you are facing an army that puts out a lot of shooting that rolls to hit (such as Wood Elves), the boosted version of this spell may come in useful - especially if you have useful, vulnerable units like Pump Wagons and Goblin Chariots within range.

The Dangerous Terrain effect of the spell may concern your opponent, however this threat is based upon the danger of very poor rolling. A unit like Tomb King Chariots will strongly dislike the potential for losing one or more models as they arrive in combat, however in general the risk will be acceptable. It only affects the front rank of the unit, and the models only fail on the roll of a 1 - in this regard Night Shroud is a poor relation of spells such as Curse of Anraheir, at best.

The final spell in Da Little Waaagh! is Curse of da Bad Moon. It fires a magical vortex 4D6" (which then moves 3D6" in a random direction in subsequent turns), using the small template. Models touched by the template must take a Strength, Toughness or Initiative test (determined randomly for the template each magic phase) or suffer a wound with no armour save. The boosted version of the spell uses the large template, and allows the player to choose which tests the victims will make each turn, however this increases the casting value from a very affordable 15+ to a difficult 25+.
Night Goblins have a fashion sense that is all their own
Compared to some of the more menacing vortex spells in the game, Curse of da Bad Moon is fairly mild. There is no threat of multiple wounds (or killing the target outright), which means units such as Monstrous Infantry and characters will not be overly concerned by it. The offset for this is that the spell doesn't use an artillery dice, and hence cannot misfire. Fancy something Orcy being more reliable than the alternative, eh?

The spell is, in essence, a troop killer. It will be most effective hitting large numbers of models, where the ability to only do a single wound at a time is irrelevant. Many solid units will feel the pain of this spell, regardless of which test is makes them take (though some would be worse than others). Units that rely on armour will find themselves exposed.

If you can manage the 25+ casting value, the boosted version of the spell promises to be devastating against units. The big template should ensure you hit a lot of models, and the ability to choose with attribute to target means that almost any unit will be in trouble. There are not many units with great Strength, Toughness and Initiative combined - there is normally a weakness.

How will it be used?
Da Little Waaagh! contains a number of very useful spells, even if you may not have an ideal use for Gift of the Spider-god and the frankly disappointing Night Shroud. Even very good Lores often contain a couple of dud spells, so this is nothing surprising. The question is how the whole Lore comes together.

As a package, Da Little Waaagh! works. It offers a raft of cheap options, which support the Lore Attribute and make the spamming of small, annoying spells a real danger. A few stolen dice could see your opponent dying the death by a thousand cuts.

There are a number of factors that make this a more likely outcome. The Signature Spell is very solid - it's cheap and it's useful. This is an incentive to buy a number of smaller Shamans, in the knowledge that they could all contribute without having to fight over the decent spells. Goblins are also the choice that can produce the most power dice. A Catchweb shrine on an Arachnarok allows for a number of Shamans to boost their ability to channel (not to mention boosting the number of spells on offer thanks to Loremaster), and each little Night Goblin Shaman can cause untold mischief with their mushrooms (though relying on that is perilous). When you consider how cheap a Night Goblin Shaman is, the potential for a devastating magical assault is very real.

Even if you are not looking at trying to overwhelm your opponent with magic, a Goblin Shaman would have to be a serious consideration to support your army. Spells like Sneaky Stabbin' and Itchy Nuisance have a lot to offer the better combat units in the list, and could have a significant impact without requiring a big investment in terms of points. I think you will often see a mix of Orc and Goblin Shamans in armies, looking to make the most of the variety of spells on offer.

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