The Trinkets of Itza - Notable gimmicks of the Warhammer world, Part 1:
The world of WFB, especially in its internet incarnation, is frankly obsessed with the “optimal” - lists, units, loadouts, combos, whatever, as long as you can take as much of that as possible. Not as much as our 40k cousins (if we have to admit some sort of kinship with them) of course, who take the art of the “optimal” to a gloriously fascinating degree.
This notion, whilst perhaps mathematically, scientifically and even possibly religiously (people have all sorts of religions after all) sound, is clearly firstly flawed and ultimately boring. It is not really helped by people generally being unable to agree on what constitutes “optimal” in the first place
Putting all that tedious, sensible and ultimately accounting-inspired (you have to wonder about things when you are being inspired by accounting) logic to one side, there is brilliant fun in concocting a plan around things that won’t work half the time, won’t do that much when they do work a third of the time, but in that remaining 1/6th of the time it not only wins you a game, but also leaves you and your opponent a story to tell for years to come.
This notion was rather well summed up in the famous old Heelanhammer “Who takes a Frostblade?!” incredulity. Dan plays dozens if not hundreds of games a year, but he will always remember the Vampire Lord who charged out of a unit and one-shotted a Stegadon.
What is a gimmick?
Some are very well known, and reliable enough to have lists built around them. The Ogre Kingdoms Death Slaughtermaster + Greedyfist + Hex Scroll backed up by Poison & Sniping Maneaters is utterly, brilliantly, brutal (depending on the FAQ/Errata ruling). The potential damage is so vast that to an extent it works as long as you opponent reacts to its presence – even if it does nothing. Some are as simple as Terrifying Mask of Eee! on a Goblin Big Boss trying to terror flanking units off with long range charges.
The dividing line between “gimmick” and “different” is a blurred one at best. To be noteworthy I posit that it would have to be significantly unusual, highly situational and/or unexpected.
Not all “gimmicks” (what a terrible word, but we’ll go with it) are spectacular or memorable, and most are unreliable - but I thought I would use this series to explore some of my personal favourites:
The “David vs Goliath”
This was concept was born from the ashes of a combination of the terror left in the wake of the rise of the WoC Daemon Prince, and the direction of most UK comp packs. How is an army built around peppering the opponent with S3 shooting supposed to deal with the new unkillable Behemoth ™ (the term, I have decided this instant, actually encompasses not only Daemon Princes, but other nigh-on unkillable characters that operate by themselves – such as WoC lords on Disc) of the tournament scene? Hmmm what’s that I hear… sounds like a violin… only much, much smaller….
One of the best (some would (incorrectly) say only) ways for a Lizardmen player to take out one of these heavily armoured-yet-immune-to-metal-magic, flying, magic-wielding and/or self-healing Behemoths ™ is with using the fickle powers of magic. Death Magic and Banehead has the power to really threaten – two wounds and dead Behemoth ™ is a real worry for the WoC player.
Unfortunately here, as is so often the case when we are trying to get our fun on, the long nose of comp pokes in. It is extremely common to ban the combination of Death Magic and Banehead. Sigh.
What hope is there now?
Cometh the time, cometh the lizard:
Skink Priest, level 2, Plaque of Tepok, Bane Head
3 spells to get a shot at either of the 2 s6 magic missiles (or even a lazer guided comet if the punk is indeed feeling lucky). All of a sudden the Behemoth ™ (talk about over using a term!) is in real danger wherever he can be seen. And you can throw all your dice at this little ninja’s spells – at around 130pts it really doesn’t matter if he dies. If you are lucky you may even kill the prince with the lore attribute, at which point gloating is required (believe it’s in one of the FAQs- probably the Skaven one, who knows what’s in there?!).
This little combo works well against any list that has characters strolling around on their own – Disc-riding BSBs are a good target (tough to get a wound through, but you only need one!). Issue here is that for all the coolness, it is just S6 – worth a shot though!
“Dancing with the mage in the mirror”
This little blighter was something I was a big fan of at the certain stage in the meta when a lot of armies had little to no BS shooting to deal with chaff (some still don’t of course), and then the Light Council was at its height.
Often the best way to deal with Terradons (being skirmishers and mobile enough to make BS shooting on them awkward) is to hit them with magic missiles for easy points. Despite what some crazy dark parts of the internet will tell you, Terradons are great. So great, in fact, you don’t really want them to die. Would be fun if your opponent wasted time trying though.
Skink Chief, Terradon, Shield of the Mirrored Pool, Blowpipe (because why not)
Sitting pretty in a unit of Terradons of any size (though the target is juicier the bigger the unit), this unit should safely attracts incoming magical fire, giving your opponent a nice bloodied nose in the bargain.
The effectiveness of the aforementioned bloody nose does depend on the interpretation of the rules of the shield – it states that on a 2+ the magic missile is reflected and hits the casting wizard. Whether it actually hits the wizard, or the unit he is in, is a source of contention.
Either way hitting your opponent with their own magic is never a bad thing – you never know, it could be an Archlector on a War Altar in the midst of a light council. Targeting that Terradon unit could easily be the last thing the he ever does.
Is this a good idea? Of course not – the skink chief costs more than a unit of Terradons! But damn its fun! This baby also works (in a less fun way) in a Scar Vet in a unit of Cold One Riders.
Wrath of the Hippy
A lovely little combo brought to us from everyone’s favourite tree lovers. Favourite here in the “I hope they get a lovely new book soon” and “oh, look over there, a Wood Elf player at the event” sense – no one ever wants to play against them. There, I’ve said it. I know, I know, rich coming from a Lizardmen player, but its still true!
Their bizarrely costed book does have a few hidden/unnoticed-because-no-one-has-read-it treasures. One that won’t be new to players who remember the days prior to Tree Elves becoming endangered, but is a personal favourite of mine is:
Spellweaver, Moonstone of the Hidden Ways, Deepwood Sphere
The execution here is brilliantly simple. Your opponent, probably trying to be clever and looking to block one of your units teleporting into a wood in their deployment zone (this is pretty much the one thing that people know about Wood Elves. That, and the fact their BSB does not get to keep his bow….). Out steps your brave Spellweaver who teleports by itself into the gap just small enough for it left in the woods (hopefully behind the unit) and then BAM! S5 hits everywhere, much carnage and maybe even some ragequitting…. Maybe…
The ideal here is that positioning and timing keeps the spellweaver safe whilst doing the damage – holding a unit in woods witch conga’d Dryads just adds to the hatred you will earn!
Reliable? Nope! Sensible? Nope! Likely to win you a game? Nope! Likely to be the cause of stories that will be remembered for years? You bet!
To be continued….