Kruleboyz are the latest faction to be released for Age of Sigmar. The Dominion box set included 39 new models and a copy is likely still lying around your friendly local game store. The secondary market is also flush with them – Kruleboyz continue to be part of the three GW starter sets so the plastic is around. Having used them since the edition’s release, I wanted to take a look at how Kruleboyz have performed, how the faction is faring in the current meta, and see what a Kruleboyz player might look forward to in the next few months.
Once the Warclans book was released and I was able to assemble my army, I became a Kruleboyz-exclusive player. In that time I’ve taken them to 2-day events including LVO, Cherokee Open, and inaugural Georgia Warband (G.A.W.) tournament. Selfishly, despite going 12-12 in two-day events I’m still trying to figure out how to play better with my army. Unlike a lot of armies, there aren’t consistent 5-0 and 4-1 finishers to learn (i.e. copy and steal) from.
A Quick History
Goonhammer originally looked at the Dominion warscrolls way back when Dominion released. Then after a significant delay, GW released full Warclans book. Goonhammer reviewed that book as well and expressed mild excitement about the overall Kruleboyz power level. About a year ago there was some discussion on how nearly every unit doing mortal wounds on a 6, combined with the first strong shooting in destruction, would make an already shooting-heavy meta into a worse experience for everyone. I still remember the day that some of the Kruleboyz spell lore – including Da Black Pit – was teased and thinking this would be a fun army to play.
However, Age of Sigmar 3.0 hasn’t been dominated by the finkin’ orc. Giants, Archaon, and Lumineth were early winners in 3.0. Soulblight Gravelords, much like a zombie would be expected to do, continued to shamble toward victory. LotFP has a dedicated following that wins at a high clip. Currently, Thunder Lizards, Stormcast Eternals, and Nurgle Flies seem to be at the top of the meta. The most surprising army construction rule continues to be the liberal application of coalition rules for Cities of Sigmar, making it seem like nearly every army in the mortal realms has access to fulminators and Stormdrakes.
“The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”Lord-Commander Bastian Carthalos – In response to reports that 25% of all Fulminators are garrisoned in the The Living City.
The Early Bird Gets The Worm, But The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese
With hindsight, we can say that the Orruk Warclans was a conservatively written book. From the start it suffered when compared to the Stormcast Eternals on a power level basis. Ironjawz have been the most successful subfaction in the book but they have some limitations they have to overcome, such as the additional restrictions placed on the Ardboyz 4+ rally on compared to later versions of this ability. Many Bonesplitterz players felt that some of their key abilities (in 3rd edition a prophet is not a priest?!) were taken away. As for Kruleboyz, the designers filled a book with conditions that start with “Unless” instead of “In addition,” dampening their impact.
Kruleboyz feel like an army without a defined design philosophy when compared to later books in 3.0. While a traditional troggoth, ogor, or orruk may be foolish enough to battle fate against a stronger opponent, a Kruleboy feels like they should be able to trick fate and turn a disadvantage to an advantage. Too many of the dirty tricks and abilities rely on a roll, or multiple rolls, of the dice. All of the artifacts are “Once per game” with many of them saying “roll a D6, on a 1-2 nothing happens”.
“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”Gordrakk, Fist of Gork – From Promulgations On Strategic Warfare
The book also prevents orukks from helping orukks. A warokk can’t do a little dance in a Kruleboyz army, a Killaboss on Corpse-rippa Vulcha can’t help his fellow Bonesplitterz, and the grots riding a Marshcrawla Sloggoth won’t banging out a rowdy Rumba to some aid some hulking brutes. Orruks keep clean battlelines that would make a Knight Excelsior blush. Unless one finds themselves in the orcish version of a commune, Big Waagh, orruk units show some respect for thematic play that the civilized armies of order don’t.
As much as this might sound like a complaint, it’s not. Game designers make choices and I think that the overall game and meta is in a good state since the release of 3rd edition. The overhaul has made the game more fun, interactive, and challenging. The design team has continued to make small and large changes to core rules, rewrites to warscrolls, additional mechanics, and points to impact on the meta without causing any one particular army to dominate every single event.
For all the complaints that shooting armies get the Boltboyz warscroll has one of the most elegant solutions for a shooting army in the game. Unlocking a better profile by moving, at the cost of range and accuracy, creates and interesting choice on both sides of the table and a more interactive experience.
How are Kruleboyz doing?
Well, we know the answer to that. Thanks to the Honest Wargamer stats team tracking the numbers for the entirety of 3rd edition we don’t have to guess merely based on Facebook comments or vibes. These numbers, and more, can be found here. It’s not perfect, they don’t represent every game ever and are missing some recent 5-0 performances for Kruleboyz. They are, however, the most complete view into AOS statistics, and I want to thank them for allowing and encouraging the community to use them. The chart below represents the results from 2-day events since the start of 3rd edition and are as of 5/29/2022. The time periods are from the release of the battletome through the release of the next book.
|Book Release||Win-Rate||# of Matches||Usage %|
|Orruk/ Stormcast Release||44%||340||2.7%|
|Maggotkin of Nurgle||39%||259||3.5%|
|IDK / Fyreslayers||33%||196||2.1%|
Since the release of the warclans book Kruleboyz are a bottom 3 army by win rate and have the WORST win-rate in the game since the release of the Idoneth Deepkin and Fyreslayers. The increase in meta participation between the release of the Nurgle book makes a lot of sense in the context of players building, painting, and testing a new army. The majority of Kruleboyz kits, including mainstays like the Mirebrute Troggoth, Boltboyz, the Sludgeraker, and Gobsprakk, were all released in September of 2021. Other models, like the Marshcrawler Sloggoth and Man-skewer Killabow, were tested and have been seeing consistent use by the community.
What really jumps out is the relative decline in usage, win-rate, and meta-participation since the release of the Idoneth Deepkin and Fyreslayers books. People have tried Kruleboyz and are moving on to other armies.
I don’t blame people for switching to another army given the performance over the past few months. This article started as I was mentally trying to work through if I wanted to continue to play the army in the future. I’d also caution against saying that the numbers don’t reflect reality. The top players and meta chasers have all had a year to look at the army and have passed. Kruleboyz do present a clear set of advantages. They do A LOT of consistent damage. They have three of the best command abilities in the game (too bad you can only take one). Kruleboyz Waaagh works as intended.
What Are Some of the Reasons Kruleboyz Underperform?
When things go wrong, everyone wants to find somebody to blame. Here are a few of my
- A Conservative Book – See Above.
- Lack of battleline options – Kruleboyz only batteline troop, Gutrippaz, does not have a defined role compared to ‘ardboyz, Brutes, and Savage Orks. The warscroll is a mishmash of conditional debuffs, low rend and low volume attacks, and a 5+ save on a unit with low bravery. Having a single flexible unit isn’t a bad thing but being forced to take three units who don’t have a well-defined role that ends up costing 27% of your points is an issue. To take advantage of the flexibility of the warscroll Gutrippaz need support from swampcalla shamans’ elixir, a Sludgeraker for the additional mortal wound output, or a killaboss to remind them of the plan after taking loses. This ends up compounding the issues as more of your board presence is invested in propping up an underwhelming unit.
- Movement – Kruleboyz are slow moving and lack the ability to have mounted troops like Bonesplitters and Ironjaws, Pregame armywide movement like Bonesplitters and consistant hero phase movement like Ironjaws. Because of the army construction restrictions, we can’t include a weirdnob Shaman to cast Hand of Gork.
- Battalions – A kruleboyz specific issue is that the majority of our best and most interesting warscrolls all take up the Leader battalion slot. Any mounted Killaboss, Gopsprakk, the Mirebrute Troggoth, and the Sluderaker are all competing for one spot in a 1 drop list. Unlike some other armies, low drops are important to Kruleboyz because of the lack of strong artifacts and a lack of tankiness. Kruleboyz don’t have the ability to hide offboard. The Killaboss on Gnashtooth is a strong an appropratly costed unit at 170 points. However, the reason he isn’t being used more is that he is competing for the same spot as a mirebrute troggoth or the 240 point killaboss on corpse-vulture. At 9 wounds he would find his way into a lot more lists. The update to Kragnos made this space even more crowded.
- Meta Shift – The shift away from single large units to tanky troops has really hurt boltboy centric builds. Nurgle and Fyreslayers can remain in combat for multiple turns and grind away units needed for controlling points. Kruleboyz can’t target that big turtle without killing all the chaff in front of them. Kruleboyz typically need to be outside of combat to cheat fate with tactix. For example, both the shaman and the target need to be out of combat to apply on elixier or poisen. Scare Taktiz (Gutrippaz for -1 to hit debuff) occurs when outside of combat.
It could be that Kruleboyz players haven’t fully explored the book. We want to forget that the last year has seen two Covid-19 surges that have kept a lot of people from going out to events and participating in the hobby. As shown below a large and increasing proportion of Kruleboyz players at competitive events have opted to take Big Yellers as a subfaction of choice. This echoes my own experience at events, taking Grinnin’ Blades to LVO followed by Big Yellers to the Cherokee Open and G.A.W..
|Book Release||Grinnin' Blades Win %||Grinnin' Blades Usage||Big Yellers Win %||Big Yellers Usage||Skulbugz Win % / Usage|
|Orruk Warclans / Stormcast||35%||14%||45%||86%||0|
|Maggotkin of Nurgle||28%||10%||40%||90%||0|
|IDK / Fyreslayers||0%||3%||34%||97%||0|
This isn’t to imply that players are making the wrong choice. As constructed Kruleboyz almost force you to take Big Yellers in big and small ways. Our battle tactic “Take Dat, Ya Suckers!” requires you to do 10 wounds or mortal wounds and receive fewer than 10 wounds or mortal wounds.
Boltboyz are consistant and fufill a specific role in a list. As a conditional battleline unit in Big Yellers you’re not spending a huge amount of points just to meet a battleline requirement. They’re one of the strongest damage dealing units and can find synergy with abilities like covered in mud and supa sneaky.
Skullbugz are a blank design space and failure. Compared to the IDK and Fyreslayers books, that allow monsters and named charaters on monsters to become battleline, having a “Monster faction” in an alleigence without a non-hero monster seems interesting.
Recently 2 Grinnin’ Blades players have gone 5-0 using lists that relied on the first turn inability to target with Mork’s Eye Pebble to block shooting in the second round. It’s entirely possible that those recent finishes will create second netlist for the Kruleboyz community to copy. Depending on how the GHB changes Grinnin’ Blades could become a viable path.
A note on Venom Encrusted Weapons
People often say that Kruleboyz are “Fishing for 5s and 6s” when they attack and that games are won or lost depending on if they roll well. I strongly disagree and the math backs up that they’re one of the most consistent damage-dealing armies in the game. The Sludgeraker and Boltboys all throw out a high volume of attacks that, when fully buffed, ignore potentially poor dice rolls for wounds and good dice on saves.
The large number of potential mortal wounds is countered by the army having limited rend and little to no ways to deal damage outside of shooting/combat.
So What’s Really Changed for Kruleboyz?
A meta with large single units (Sons, Nagash, Kragnos) was great for boltboy heavy lists. Fully buffed a unit of 9 can do ~15 mortal wounds when on the move. Most of the popular Kruleboyz lists included at least one group of gitz shootas as allies for a cheap screen with a -1 to hit debuff. This, when combined with a -1 to wound from noisy racket would stop most alpha strike armies from doing the damage needed in the first turn.
The December update to Kragnos was one of the most significant changes for Destruction players. His ability to get into combat quickly, and get other units into combat, lead to a lot of experimentation. I’ve seen a lot of Kruleboyz lists using him as a beatstick. However, Kruleboyz winrate, relative to other factions, hasn’t seen the bump that could be expected if he were to fix all problems.
Finally, the Predators and Prey update decreased Sons of Behemat’s viability as a top-table faction. Sons was one of the most reliable factions to target as a Kruleboyz player. Noisy Racket was a perfect counter to any megas that were able to engage screens in combat turn 1 and a double volley from boltboys would either kill, or maim, 1 per turn.
So What’s Next?
Since the release of the Nurgle book in December the top of the Meta has been relatively unchanged. Stormcast and Thunderlizards are typically at the top of most large events with strong showings from Soulblight, Cities of Sigmar, Nurgle and Lumineth. In the past year, we’ve seen armies lifted up based on some small but tactical rules changes, not requiring an entire book overhaul to get to a good place.
With the release of Daughters of Khaine, Nighthaunt, the Incarnate there are a lot of changes and experimentation being done. Skaven and Sylvaneth will at least cause people to dust off old models and paint up the new armies. The upcoming GHB will have new battleplans, points, and contribute to a large meta shift. Now is a good time to play around with models and units that haven’t seen a lot of play over the past few months. Here are some ideas I’m looking at:
- “All Part of Da Plan” – This ability, present on 3 leader models, has only 1 model run on a failed battleshock test. The past year of Age of Sigmar has been extremely fast – a constant arms race between high rend and save stacking. A consequence of this is that units with lower save characteristics get chewed through without much thought. Several armies have abilities that prevent or turn off the ability to issue commands in the battleshock phase as well. If Gutrippaz receive a boost through the GHB, combined with a change in points, the internal balance might favor keeping units around longer.
- Hobgrots – For years Sylvaneth players have talked about scythes vs. swords. Make eye contact with a Beast of Chaos player and they’re likely to explain, in great detail, the difference between gors and ungors. For Kruleboyz players the great debate is over hobgrots. Some players think they make a great screen and are useful objective holders. Others thing that they cost too much and a cheaper goblin shoota ally is the better choice. The 4/3/-1/1 shooting profile is very nice at short range and they don’t require or use many buffs.
- Grinnin’ Blades – I noted before that at least 2 Grinnin’ Blades lists have gone 5-0 in the past month. How the GHB is structured, and the Battlepack changes list building, could shift the internal balance making them a more viable faction. Both of the 5-0 lists used at least 30 hobgrots.
- Big Waagh – If you can’t beat em, join em. Take what you can and give nothing back. Using Big Waagh allows you to take the most efficient warscrolls in the book and solves the battleline issue.
- White Dwarf – Pure speculation, but we received a White Dwarf for Hedonites of Slaanesh 15 months after the last book was released. Soulblight Gravelords received an update earlier in the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the GW rules team is looking at the same numbers (from the same sources) as we are and thinking about how to boost up Kruleboyz. They have an almost blank canvas in Skullbugz and could easily boost the army with some more dirty trickz, battle tactics, and abilities.
No Fate But The One We Make
Most of the above discussion has focused on what’s been happening with the player base at large. But what are YOU going to do with your spare Kruleboyz models? Right now the market is FLOODED with cheap models and if you like the look and want to put them together you can likely get a lot of plastic at a big discount to MSRP. If your pile of Kruleboyz shame truly doesn’t spark joy hope springs eternal and there may be some interest when the GHB drops. The models look too good, and the army offers a very different playstyle from most destruction armies so I know a lot of players will continue to stick with the army.
I don’t have any major singles events coming up until after the new GHB should be released. I still have about a
two three dozen or so Kruleboyz to finish painting and can focus on trying out new units until then. As somebody who follows the rule of cool when selecting armies I’m really excited to see the second pass of the nighthaunt book create a fun, thematic, and interesting army with multiple viable builds. The way they took the charge mechanic from a pass/fail option and made it into a mechanic that rewards better dice, but always provides some benefit is great to see.
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