The Children of Chaos are the greatest threat to the Empire of Man.
Greatest here is strictly based on the volumetric definition. Sure every few hundred years some new king of the Northern tribes invades the Empire, busts up Praag (seriously, whatever happened to Kislev?! They should release a 40k-style supplement for armies from there – because at the moment all the relevance there is to Kislev is that Chaos Warriors like to burn it occasionally and Felix Jaeger’s strong-headed-one-time-girlfriend-turned-vampire comes from there) decides for some reason to besiege Middenheim before inevitably being scattered to the winds and slinking off back to the North and waiting for the next King, or at the very least a ret-con of the fluff. Their Daemonic masters tend to follow them around in mischievous puppy dog fashion – sure, occasionally they do their own thing, normally involving a portal (and we all like those) have wild initial success before being thwarted in a change in the magical weather.
In short, the average citizen of the Empire can probably die of old age (probably at the age of 41 or therabouts) knowing that Chaos Warriors and Daemons are every bit as made up as the half-man-half-rat creatures you hear tall tales about (in their defence, you could also be a tournament wargamer for a number of years and believe that actual Chaos Warriors are a mythical thing that arise in times of crisis when their army needs the ability to sit in a building comfortably, but that’s a whole separate thing). Throughout those blissful years of hard toil, utter poverty and occasional starvation, the average citizen would have lived in dread of one thing above all others (save perhaps from overt attention paid by the local Witch Hunter to their family’s webbed toes) – the unheralded, indiscriminate and unforgiving savagery of a Beastmen Warband.
Savagely cunning, at home in the dark forests of the Old World, keen trackers and ambushers, able to call upon the mutated splendour of creatures too foul for the imagination and largely unburdened by the bickering politics of their better equipped kin - surely this army, this epitome of the power of Chaos in the mortal world, is smashing apart all before them using a combination of endless numbers, dark magicks, rampaging monsters, unstoppable characters and the preternatural threat of the deadly ambush. How does one survive in this hopeless (and probably damp) world?
So, there won’t be anyone reading this who does not appreciate that the Beastmen book is terrible. Even those who bestrode their moral high horses and rage quit with all the pomp and circumstance of an Australian podcast host after being given free trips to the US to the land of the WarmaHordes (where, I have been told, the game is so much cheaper than GW prices that it is effectively free, the game truly honours the true skill of guessing inches with your eyes and the company has absolutely no interest in in making money whatsoever but rather lives purely to worship the gamer) will remember that this book was terrible even upon release. Gone was the (admittedly unwieldy) skirmishing and mixed model armies, in were the over-costed infantry and chariots (and lets not talk about the Rare section).
The rubbishes of the true Children of Chaos seems to be one of the enshrined truisms of Warhammer – just look at all the help the ETC keeps trying to give them (though also note that as soon as someone comes up with a truly original list (thinking Team Northern Ireland in 2012) they duly comp it out of the game.
All this being said – they can be effective. As with all other lower-tiered books, they have some very bad matchups, but their good matchups are often against decent armies. And they can be devastating.
I have a confession to make.
I was hoping this day would never come.
At major (2 day, 50+ player) events in the three years I have been playing competitively my worse record against any and all armies is…. Beastmen.
Four games, Three losses. 75% loss rate.
Compare this to my two losses in countless games against Daemons of Chaos and no losses against the new Warriors and you see my shame in its undiluted glory.
So, what should you look out for so as not to become like me – hiding in the relative safety of a well-lit office, far from the dangers of Primal Fury, twitching at the very thought of goats?
Beastmen do two things well. In uncomped Warhammer they often only get to do one of those things due to points constraints, but when comp helps them out with points, they can sometimes do both. And those two things are good things.
Beastmen arguably fight better than any other infantry army in the game. The access to hatred every round is a massive deal (rerolls really are the kings of Warhammer) and they have access to both magical and magic item buffs to their units that an see them go toe to toe with most other units. Their Characters can also be every bit as destructive as their pansy Norse friends – I have seen many a Doombull destroy entire armies by himself, and the Beastlord can be almost as good. Both can be engineered to sit on Daemon Princes for a good while, if not kill them.
Magic may be fickle, but damn it is powerful. And Beastmen can bring ALL the magic to the party. The Shard not only provides a nice and portable piece of impassable terrain to play around with, it can fuel magic phases to an insane degree (on a bit of a side note, do they then drag the shards off with them, or are vast areas of the Empire covered in honking big rocks that power up any passing wizard?). Their lore access is somewhat limited, but Shadow and Beasts can ramp up the power of the combat (which is already decent) and Death magic is the potential game winner we all love to hate so much. The Lore of the Wild is seen as a joke by most, but it has some incredible spells in it – be it the Monstrous Cavalry smashing Traitor Kin, the surprisingly effective Viletide or the simply awesome Savage Dominion.
In fact these two things along would make the book better than average (and potentially as grand as “good”) if not for the criminal over costing of the entire book. There are always going to be bad matchups for the traditional Beastmen build (known in some circles as The Wildman) – armies that do not have to engage can cause serious issues – Lizardmen, for example, love shooting infantry. It’s right up there with basking in the sun and double fleeing in the Most Popular Lizard Hobbies of 2013 list. Armies that have to fight, however, are at risk.
It is not surprising really that my 75% loss ratio against them came in my VC days. I had to engage to get points, Beastmen engage to get points – luck swings are epically important here. Being stuck in combat with a Beastmen unit in their turn is asking for trouble. They will often have the potential spells and dice to cast 3 Wildforms, a Soulblight, a Miasma and sometimes even the odd withering/enfeebling/mindrazor in there for good measure. Units cannot take that punishment, hell, even SkullCrushers do not want to be stuck on a Bestigor unit. You have to smash them hard enough to leave a pitiful amount of attacks coming the other way to stand a chance. Mindrazored Corsairs for example had nothing to fear in these combats.
This is, however, in the land of the unit vs unit combat. Warriors change this a lot – too many hand grenade units, impact hits, flying threats to key magic users, thunderstomps and self-healing unbreakable and hard to hit Princes are all bad news for Beastmen hordes. The rise of armies that have the potential to significantly cause damage at range with limited risk (as covered in discussions in and around DenialHammer) or a highly mobile is also a Bad Thing for the poor goats.
In summary, the Beastmen book could have the answers to most of their weaknesses, but this relies on having a LOT more points than their opponents. Even with the generosity of the ETC in this regards, you rapidly run out of points when actually writing lists, and end up being a one dimensional army. They really should release an Errata halving the cost of every single thing in the Beastmen book- then things could be interesting.
I shall leave you with lessons learnt from my experiences at the hands of the fell children of Chaos gods:
1 – Do not, under any circumstances, allow massive units of Gor into the watchtower when you have no way of panicking them out. This is a Bad Thing.
2 – When armed with a unit with the potential to go through a non-stubborn unit in a turn, do not, under any circumstances, charge the wrong unit. This is a Very Bad Thing.
3 – Whatever else you do, no NOT let a single RazorGor charge your combat Vampire Lord and his unit of Grave Guard. The RazorGor, regardless of the odds, WILL kill the Lord. This is The Worse Thing. DAMN YOU WILDMAN!!*
*this was before he was famous. Am pretty sure now he is famous something would go wrong and he would get to blame the dice :)
At the conclusion of this series on how to survive the overwhelming Reign of Chaos sweeping our lands, I must say I found myself constantly harking back to the golden years of the 5th Edition Warhammer Armies: Realm of Chaos book. The warband nature of that book provided the most fluff – orientated lists I have ever seen (and no. Mono Nurgle is not fluffy even if you do not take Death Magic). Chaos armies could be a true mix of Warriors, Daemons and Beastmen – just like in the stories. The Lords of Chaos were suitably scary (though my mounted Khorne Lord at the time with the Chaos Runeshield, Helm of Many Eyes and Frostblade (had a touch of the HeroHammer about him – which to me, is a Good Thing when you are talking Chaos Lords). The new books allow a degree of min-maxing that is unfortunate, though admittedly very successful against the unprepared opponent.
That being said, unless I am mis-rememebering things, the Beastmen were pretty bad back then too.....
Until next time,