Ossiarch Bonereapers are semi-newcomers to the game, being launched in October of 2019. They offered a bone-centric alternative to the aging Legions of Nagash with an army where every model was Elite. Unit leaders could issue orders, and most units had above-average stats for their bracket. There was a slight scare in the community that they might be too good when one of the subfactions, Petrifix Elite, gave a +1 to saves across the army as a faction trait and a universal command ability gave an additional rend. They ultimately did pretty good, but not quite as broken as anticipated. Tzeentch and Seraphon came out shortly after and cracked the meta in two. Then COVID put a death knell on most competitive play worldwide. A final FAQ nerf at the end of 2nd turned Petrifix Elite from a +1 to saves to a reroll 1s, pretty much a death knell for the subfaction.
Overall though Ossiarch Bonereapers remain relatively strong. They have above average baseline stats and while they have their own system of “Command Points”, separate from the main system they can be a powerful asset. They are a powerful terminator army that you can slowly push up the field and hold your ground against many other armies. Ossiarch Bonereaper victory usually comes from a slow and delibrate push to victory, outlasting your opponent and destroying them before they wear you down.
Ossiarch Bonereapers were designed to ignore a lot of rules. Their general structure is very different and they either ignore or replace the rules with something else. A lot of these ideas were rather clearly testbeds for 3rd edition.
First, the lone positive is that you don’t take Battleshock, which is even better than before. Since other armies can only pop Inspiring Presence once per turn now, the rare scenarios where you might otherwise care matter. After that it gets pretty dire. Their unique systems are no longer unique, namely the ability to issue command abilities from the leader of a unit is no longer special, neither is the fact that you generate multiple RDP but burn them at the end of the turn. That’s basically standard now, but the same restrictions still apply.
For one, you get pretty burned on Heroic Actions. One of the most frustrating is that Heroic Leadership to give a Hero a free CP to use doesn’t help, as it doesn’t give an RDP. This means unless a Hero is injured you can’t do a ton on your turn. You can unbind an endless spell with Heroic Willpower but that’s…about it. You’re obviously saving Their Finest Hour for when it matters, so it’s a lot of sitting out of a major mechanic on your own turn.
But the biggest elephant in the room is that your Relentless Discipline got severely wrecked. Relentless Discipline (RDP) is a system distinct from command points, it is crucial to understand that they are not treated the same. This does have some upsides (abilities that steal CP do not affect you) you also cant accumulate any. Instead Relentless Discipline grants you one for each Hero, an additional one for each Hero with the LIEGE keyword, 3 if Katakros is your general. Finally you roll a die for each of your units on the field and for each 6 you get a RDP. The two big changes are that the rolling stage is done on both players hero phase now, and you get an additional one for going first or two for going second. Long story short you’re getting alot more RDP than before, the problem is lack of stuff to use it on.
The core rules around command abilities have some serious knock on effects for how your army works. The biggest loss is you do not get the new command abilities like All Out Attack, Redeploy, Rally, etc. This can put you at a serious disadvantage particularly on the approach. The second knock on effect is that only being able to use an command once per phase means you need to be more picky about how you’re going to use your command abilities. Previously, the boon of RDP was having an abundance of points to augment your forces, and now you have a few more but can’t spend it in as many places.
Overall, it’s not great for OBR. They function more or less how they did, but with fewer tools. It’s a bit of an uphill struggle but you still pack some real solid units, so don’t despair entirely. The change to maxing out hits and wounds to +1 or -1 mean your above average stats are harder to weaken so you’re still a dangerous wall to an enemy that isn’t prepared.
We already discussed how RDP has been changed so let’s focus on the other most important change is to Petrifix Elite who went from +1 to save to Reroll 1s. This buried them for a while, but they came back with a “reduce rend by 1” which is really handy to have. It’s not quite as good as +1 to save but in most cases it functions about the same, so Mystic Shield etc. still has value. Their command ability, Bludgeon is a -1 Rend and that is deadly. Since you cant just put Shield Wall on all your Mortek Guard why not have them hit with -2 rend?
Ossiarch Bonereapers have a real short list of units, so you’ll be relying on a lot of the same units. Most everything has a niche but in general your stuff is more expensive so you end up needing to be choosy. In general, your Heroes got cheaper while units went up. This is a net positive for you, because most armies in the game saw price hikes across the board.
Katakros lost 30 points and with Their Finest Hour he remains a force to be reckoned with. His utility is unmatched, between stealing CP (now once in each player’s round), -1 to hit on any model, free healing for units, and a decent stat profile when he gets really hurt he can really mess people up. He can’t hand out Endless Duty quite so gingerly anymore but Supreme Lord of the Ossiarch Bonereapers has gotten more valuable since you can’t just spam shield wall and don’t get access to All Out Defense.
Your other martial Heroes are the Liege-Kavalos and their named variant Arch-Kavalos Zandtos are cheaper as well. Ossiarchs are fairly unique in that their named variants are so good it’s not unusual to rock all named Heroes and ignore command traits and relics and Zandtos was a major example of that. For 20 more points he could grant rerolls 1s to wound against Order and Destruction and Reroll All Wounds against Chaos. Unfortunately this is diminished pretty badly, because now he can only issue one order, and both the generic and Zandtos share Endless Duty which statistically is much better. Zandtos has a better weapon, so it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth it.
Arkhan, who stayed as 360 points. Bizarrely, Nagash lost the ability to spam Mystic Shield but Arkhan did not. This might be a mistake but for now rules as written he can still do that. The fact he has every spell memorized and can extend the range by 6″ with his command ability grants him a level of utility that the other casters don’t quite match. 360 points is still a lot though, so whether or not he’s worth it is going to be subject to debate, I do think he’s more than the sum of his parts and between 3 castings (+2 at full health), knowing all the spells with an additional 6″ and also being able to hand out free healing to nearby units, he makes up for it. The fact he is a Monster won’t come up often because you generally don’t want him in combat unless it’s some severely weakened infantry, but he can still help with Battle Tactics like Monstrous Takeover.
If that’s too steep for your liking you got 3 budget Wizards with different rolls. The Mortisan Soulmason is probably the best of the bunch from a utility standpoint, having 2 casts and being able to throw out Soul Guide (Reroll 1s to hit) up to 4 times per turn if the dice like you. The Mortisan Boneshaper is a budget healer, worth taking if you didn’t bring Arkhan. Since you can’t rally you really need a way to bring back dead models and so either Katakros, Arkhan, Nagash or this guy will need to foot the bill. The Mortisan Soulreaper is a warrior wizard, who probably is a bit too delicate for his own good.
Onto your Battleline you still only got 2, Mortek Guard suffer badly from the “only one use of a command ability per turn” thing. You can’t just pop Shield Wall across the board anyway so you need to do some threat assessment. Spread out your Mystic Shields and Reinforce Battle Shield so someone who’s not protected can pop Shield Wall. Kavalos Deathriders got a price hike of 190 for 5 now, probably costs too much at this point but due to your lack of fast moving units you can consider them potential objective grabbed. Just don’t expect them to kill a lot.
Necropolis Stalkers are about as useful as they were, a solid hammer unit. Keep them in precision stance Spirit Blades and let the good times roll. Be careful though, since they are 4 wounds they are stuck in an ugly spot where your Healers can’t raise them when they die, and you can’t rally so once they’re down they’re down. You also still only count as one model on the objectives. Pick your targets wisely.
The last 2 units of note are your behemoths the Mortek Crawler and the Gothizzar Harvester. The Crawler is your best source of ranged damage and sees a little bit of an upgrade since saves can’t pass a +1. Small consolation with your no rend hits but when they hit they hit and can paste many Heroes with just one unlucky save, or a solid chunk of a unit. The Harvester got a bit of a new lease on life, with all the new Monster rampages and the fact that many Battle Tactics in the 2021 GHB give a bonus to objectives completed by a Monster means that as your only non-Hero Monster you can get some play out of this guy. Have him chaperone a unit of Mortek Guard to keep them healthy but don’t be too eager to get him into combat either. He only has 10 wounds so for a monster he’s not as tanky as you’d hope. He’s your support.
How to Play
Ossiarch Bonereapers have to shift their priorities a bit with the new edition. Previously they were like a moving wall, moving slowly up the field to push an opponent back who foolish enough to charge them without the rend of number of attacks to stop them. With a lot of the new command abilities opponents will get that you won’t, you need to play conservative. You can’t rally back dead guys (though many of your Heroes can do it with a guarantee), you can’t redeploy and you don’t get to add +1 to your hit or saves. See the problem? Charging into an enemy wall will often end badly for you.
What you should do is focus on your defense. A lot of your units can hold their ground quite well, so let them come to you and keep your support units close by. Make sure your mages can cast Mystic Shield on the units most likely to be attacked, keep your hammers and support close so they can join in on a charge attack against you . Tie up enemy units while other units slip by onto the objectives. You don’t get as much option to react during your opponent’s phase so use that time to plan escape routes or ways to bog down an opponents units to keep them tied up long enough to let you move past. Your movement is pretty bad, so you need to plan ahead on how you’ll move.
Allegiance: Ossiarch Bonereapers - Legion: Petrifex Elite - Grand Strategy: Hold the Line - Triumphs: Inspired Leaders Katakros, Mortarch of the Necropolis (470) in Battle Regiment Arkhan the Black, Mortarch of Sacrament (360) Battleline 20 x Mortek Guard (280) in Battle Regiment - Nadirite Blade and Shield - Reinforced x 1 10 x Mortek Guard (140) in Battle Regiment - Nadirite Blade and Shield 10 x Mortek Guard (140) in Battle Regiment - Nadirite Blade and Shield Units 3 x Necropolis Stalkers (180) in Battle Regiment Behemoths Gothizzar Harvester (215) Artillery Mortek Crawler (215) in Battle Regiment Core Battalions Battle Regiment Total: 2000 / 2000 Reinforced Units: 1 / 4 Allies: 0 / 400 Wounds: 105
This is my current favorite list. Katakros and Arkhan is the center of my castle and everything around them works to defend them or strike back. With Katakros I can basically get field wide +1 to hit, Arkhan throws out a few Mystic shields to the delicate units and the Mortek Guard hold the line. Endless Duty on the Mortek Crawler in the shooting phase gives a nice 4 attacks that hopefully pastes something, while in the combat phase he can make sure he or someone else dishes out the damage. The Mortek Crawler is a chaperone with a unit of mortek, keeping the 10 man unit alive, while the Necropolis Stalkers attempt to strike out at undefended units.
All in all it does struggle where OBR traditionally do. Board Control is pretty bad, so if you feel those Heroes are just too much of the list you can substitute them with the Liege Kavalos and a Soulmason, opening up more lines of Mortek Guard, Stalkers or Crawlers (to taste). Just keep your castle together, it’s very easy to overestimate ranges on the shorter board and wander outside the realm of safety. Also remember that because the board is shorter first turn charges and ranged attacks got more likely, and you are on the downside in the ranged phase, since you can’t pop shield Wall and, again, you don’t get All-Out Defense. It’s an uphill battle but just remember in combat, you can usually hold out longer than they can.
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