Getting Started: Ossiarch Bonereapers

With Broken Realms: Teclis on the horizon, Games Workshop has promised new rules for a handful of armies related to Order and Death (and Nurgle too!). Now is a great time to get started on these armies, to have them assembled and painted in time for the release of the new book. This week we’re looking at how get yourself started with Nagash’s most elite faction, the Ossiarch Bonereapers.

Who are the Ossiarch Bonereapers?

Nagash, the God of the Dead and the Grand Necromancer has relied on souls and bodies of the departed to do most of his bidding. Those reinvigorated with unnatural life make dutiful servants, with no concerns of their own ambitions or desires to betray their Master, they are an endless hoard undeterred by hunger, thirst or fatigue. The traditional methods of the dead have their limited however, zombies, skeletons and Nighthaunts are still hindered by their previous life and have almost no ability to think for their themselves. Nagash needed a stronger, thinking army that could stand toe to toe with Sigmar’s chosen, the Stormcast Eternals.

Nagash, using lost magic from the Stormvaults which also imprisoned one of Nagash’s lost lieutenants Katakros began work in earnest to construct the Ossiarch Bonereapers. Similar to the Deathrattle hordes of skeletons, but more advanced, Ossiarch Bonereapers are constructs made of bone taken from fallen soldiers and in tributes taken from the villages of men. Only the best pieces are used to construct these automatons, creating an elite fighting force very dissimilar to the awkward and ramshackle Deathrattle soldiers. Each of these creations is imbued with a soul energy, the rank and file Mortek Guard filled with a fusion of much weaker souls which grants them only the bare minimum of autonomy. The more high ranking officers often consist of fewer souls and more individual thought, and the leaders of the army were a single person in a past life. These people were usually the best of the mortal generals in life, allowing them to continue to lead Nagash’s forces to victory again Order and Chaos.

On the table, Ossiarch Bonereapers are an “elite” low model count army. Each unit is individually very powerful and doesn’t require as much back up support as other armies frequently do. Regardless, your troops are supported by a wide variety of leaders who serve varying roles in your army. They are equally impressive in strength and can often serve very flexible roles.

Leige Kavalos
Credit: Silks

Army Strengths

  • Powerful units – Your units are unique in their ability to function well without needing to be “babysat” as much as other armies, especially Death which usually NEED their Heroes to not instantly crumble. Between above average stats and the ability for even rank and file troopers to use “command abilities” means your forces can split off and hold a relatively stable ground without help.
  • Every one is a Hero – As mentioned above, every unit gets its own command ability (and access to their own generic list for the whole army). Using the sergeants as the focal point, these command ability like powers allow the units to buff themselves, or each other, to increase their already impressive strength.
  • No relying on Command Points – This is a bit of a boon and a bane, but mostly positive. You do not get command points as other armies do, but generate “Relentless Discipline” each turn based off on the number of Heroes you have available. Since they are not command points they cannot be subject to rules that disrupt command abilities. The downside is you cannot use the regular “generic” command abilities from the core book. Instead you get one generic, which adds 3″ to movement for a unit (and you’ll need this). Largely the effect of losing your generic command abilities can be negated because you can replicate the effects pretty closely with warscroll command abilities, and having a constant supply of new Discipline Points gives you an advantage over an opponent who might be trying to scrounge for 2 or 3 a turn.
  • Immune to Fear – You don’t have to worry about battleshock tests at all, the only army who does even better than the bravery 10 of other Death armies. As a result, max units became very viable.

Army Weaknesses

  • Slow – With one or two exceptions this is a very plodding army. You have to be clever to get around it, relying on your cavalry or some smart positioning to make up for it.
  • Low model count – Your units are expensive which means not a ton of units. Combined with your slow speed and lack of ranged attacks, its hard to have good board coverage. Age of Sigmar is a game about controlling the field to score objectives, and not about who survives.
  • Lack of Ranged – Like most Death armies you have a lack of ranged attacks, outside of the Mortek Crawler, a powerful catapult. The Crawler is good, but in an army where everything is expensive, you’ll have to make some tough decisions about fitting them into your army.

What do I need to play?

In addition to the usual Gaming Book and General’s Handbook, all you need for now is the Battletome: Ossiarch Bonereapers

No need to worry about older editions here, as the version of this book is the only one out there. It has all your war scrolls and rules so you’ll be ready to go. Just also make sure to grab the FAQ from For Ossiarch Bonereapers in particular, a major change was made to Petrifix Elite, one of the armies subfactions which we will explain in greater depth when we get to list building. As a new army there isn’t really any supplemental material just yet. The next Broken Realms book, Teclis will be premiering in a couple of months and it remains to be seen if it’s worth it. If it is, we’ll update this space to let you know!.

Credit: Games Workshop

You will also want to grab the Bone-Tithe Nexus. As a terrain piece it costs nothing, and is easily one of the best Terrain pieces in the game. There are 4 heads, each with unique effects that affect enemies from 18 or 36″ away, depending on the head. It has a variety of nasty effects and since it doesn’t cost any points you’ll want it in every list you run any way.

Starting your Army

Sadly, Ossiarch Bonereapers don’t have a Start Collecting to help you get a bunch of models together at once. When the army first launch there was a box, Feast of Bones which also contained Ogor Mawtribes. If you had a friend to split with it wasn’t a bad deal and for a time it was the only way to get your hands on Vokmortian. The box is no longer in print though and the unit selection does leave a bit to be desired as it only has 10 Mortek Guard(as opposed to the standard box containing 20), Vokmortian (who isn’t very good compared to your other heroes, and you can buy him seperately now) and finished off with 3 Necropolis Stalkers/Immortis Guard and 3 Morghast Archai/Harbingers, neither of which are much good even with the fairly recent point drop they received. If you can get one of the box cheap, think about it but it’s not worth looking all that hard for. One boon to the army’s currently limited unit selection, and the low model count of the army makes it mercifully easy to buy separate unit boxes to get going with.


Like any army, you want to get started with your battleline, you have 2 options here, both extremely good.

  • Mortek Guard – Your rank and file. At 130 for 10 models these guys are surprisingly cheap for what they do. They have a very respectable 3+ to hit and 4+ to wound, with a -1 Rend. Their unique command ability lets them reroll all saves making them a nigh-impenetrable shield wall for a turn. The box comes with 20, which is good because you likely want to run them in squads of 20, and even up to 40 is not unheard of since your army ignores battleshock. You can safely run them with swords rather than spears, as that -1 can mean a lot, as it really improves your odds against units with excellent saves and can potentially negate saves from weaker enemies altogether. Be warned that these guys are slow, moving only 4″ without assistance. They are generally for holding ground, not taking it.
  • Kavalos Deathriders – Your cavalry, and what wonderful cavalry they are. In an army where many of your units have a very slow move speed, these guys move at 12″ (15″ a relentless discipline point) which allows them to serve the role of most cavalry, grabbing objectives and picking off units that separate from the group. Taking swords or spears is a little more hotly debated here, as the spears increased ability to generate extra hits on the charge is notable versus swords -1 rend. Swords are a bit more reliable, but spears can help pick off a unit the turn you successfully charge in.

So which should you go for? Well honestly it’s up in the air. Some people prefer all Mortek or all Kavalos but a healthy mix is probably the smartest place to work from here. One box of Mortek guard gives you 20, which is more than suitable for lower point games so I’d reccomend 1 box of Mortek and 2 boxes of Kavalos, but feel free to mix up the exact formula to suit your play style.


Next we want to choose a leader. For just starting out there are 3 I recommend.

  • Liege-Kavalos – Most of your Heroes lean toward being casters, while the Liege Kavalos is a horseback harbinger of death. His stat line is impressive and his command ability lets you improve the attack characteristic of a unit by 1, perfect for a large squad of Mortek or Kavalos Deathriders. With his high speed and heavy durability, having him ride out with the protection of some Deathriders and your opponent will be in for a world of hurt. if you can spare the extra 20 points, the named character upgrade Arch-Kavalos Zandtos has all of his usual perks and more, but be aware he can’t take command traits or artefacts due to being named, and that can become a serious problem in some lists when you get to the 2,000 pt range.
  • Mortisan Boneshaper – A wizard and a medic. His unique spell isn’t anything special, a simple “Roll a die for each model in a unit, deal a mortal wound on a 6” but his free ability lets you heal 3 wounds or return 3 wounds worth of models. Bonereapers are generally pretty frustrating to kill in the first place, ones that are brought back just compound the pain.
  • Mortain Soulmason – The most expensive wizard of the bunch (not counting Vokmortian) the Soulmason is notable for his unique spell, Soul-guide which lets a unit reroll hit rolls of 1. On its own, this is pretty good, but he also can potentially cast is 1-3 additional times fairly reliably. As a support character hes quite nasty, so he’s definitely worth considering for your lists.

Ultimately I would include the Liege-Kavalos and pick one of the Mortisan Boneshaper or Soulmason. Or both if you want, but if you’re going with the bare minimum to get started I would pick one and come back for the other later.

List Building

Once upon a time, Petrifix Elite was your go to selection, and there was very little contest. The launch version of Petrifix Elite, and the one still in the book lists its Allegiance Ability as +1 to all save rolls. If you’re coming in late please note this is out of date and to check the FAQ. It was as absurdly strong as it sounds, and has now been replaced with the much more benign rerolling all 1s to save. Which is absolutely terrible for Ossiarch Bonereapers because Mortek can reroll all saves for the cost of 1 Relentless Discipline point. The current favorite leans toward the Mortis Praetorians, but this has more to do with the fact that many of the named characters (Including Arch-Kavalos Zandtos, Vokmortian and Katakros himself) are already in the legion, giving excellent synergy. The legion itself is fine, but you can make good arguments for many of the different subfactions. For the sake of ease, using the advice above let’s look at a potential starting list.

Allegiance: Ossiarch Bonereapers
 - Legion: Mortis Praetorians

Liege-Kavalos (200)
- General
- Command Trait: Katakros' Chosen
- Artefact: Artificer's Blade 
Mortisan Boneshaper (130)

20 x Mortek Guard (260)
- Nadirite Blade and Shield
5 x Kavalos Deathriders (180)
- Nadirite Blade and Shield
5 x Kavalos Deathriders (180)
- Nadirite Blade and Shield

Bone-Tithe Nexus (0)
Emerald Lifeswarm (50)

If you got the Soulmason instead of the Boneshaper, you can substitute that in and swap the Emerald Lifeswarm for a different endless spell. You can’t use command points so there’s no use in buying one.

We’ll stick with Praetorians because the artefact and Command Ability of the legion synergize very well with it. The artefact grants a -3 rend on a melee weapon, and the command trait lets you reroll hit rolls for units that charged this turn, which works perfectly with our 2 squads of Deathriders. You’ll notice off the bat how few units you have to work with, even at 1k, 5 units is not a lot. While I assure you they can hold their own, this is why it’s important to bring healing spells through the boneshaper and Emerald Lifeswarm, to keep your few precious models going. Your basic strategy is treating your Mortek as a shield guard for holding objectives, while your boneshaper keeps them alive. The Liege Kavalos and his Deathriders can move fast to hit the enemy hard and pick off stray units going for an objective. With proper coordination your opponent will have a hard time killing too many units while you secure the objective.

Credit: Silks

Expanding Your Army

Once you have a good handle on the army, there’s a few places you can expand. As usual, getting more battleline is an excellent place to start. Expanding to larger units of Mortek guard (or more, smaller squads) is a great idea. You also have some really strong characters and heavy hitter units to look into, that aren’t good picks for a 1k list but in a 2k list are very competitive.

  • Gothizzar Harvester – Your sole Behemoth option, this guy does a lot. Able to be equipped with Scythes for hordes and Bludgeons for more elite foes the Gothizzar Harvester hits hard and takes a beating like any Behemoth but is notable for being able to heal nearby allies for each foes it kills. As discussed above, Ossiarch Bonereapers appreciate anything that can keep their few units in fighting shape so this guy is a fairly popular take if you can fit one in. You probably won’t need more than one, but definitely consider it especially if you don’t have a boneshaper.
  • Mortek Crawler – Your artillery piece and with it you will make the other Death Armies jealous as they look in envy at having an actual ranged attack. the basic attack does a rather nasty 3 attacks at 5 damage each but it also comes with 2 special ammo you can fire once per game each. The Cauldron of Torment is good for softening up big hordes early on, though it will only destroy models if the bravery is low, against other death armies or daemons, just forget it. The Cursed Stele is better later in the game when you’ve taken a few wounds and want to take a big model down with you. Crawlers are extremely popular and it’s common to take one, and up to 3 are not unheard of depending on the list.
  • Katakros – The big man himself. He’s seen a bit of a surge in popularity once Petrifix Elite died down. Many of his buffs apply to all Ossiarch Bonereapers, but since he counts as Mortis Praetorians one of his command abilities is improved in that army. It would be impossible to document everything he does, but it’s a lot. At 500 points though you really need to craft your lists to work around him as that’s going to leave you a few units short in an army desperately looking for as many units as it can get.
  • Arkhan the Black – By extension, the best caster in the army. He’s decent in melee and knows all the spells from the list, while also being able to cast 3 spells per turn. At 360 points he’s quite hefty but he outclasses the other wizards in the army by a good mile. He’s also very flexible, as despite being portrayed in the lore as leader of the Null Myriads, he doesn’t have a Legion on his warscroll, letting him take on the role of any of the subfactions.
  • Nagash – Ok, not quite true. He is the best wizard in the army. 8 spells at max health and a terrifying melee combatant, Nagash is the Supreme Lord of Death after all. He’s very hard to kill but don’t get cocky, he’s still more of a wizard than a warrior so don’t let him wade into combat completely unprotected. At 880 points he really needs to be built around and that is a lot harder with Ossiarch Bonereapers due to how expensive every unit is, so if you really want him you might be better off looking into Legions of Nagash. Still, like Arkhan he knows every spell from the book and can count as belonging to any legion which gives him a fair amount of versatility.

Wrapping Up

The Ossiarch Bonereapers have had a bit of a journey. From the prospective meta darlings, they quickly saw themselves out classed by Tzeentch and Kharadron Overlords with their ranged attacks and high rend, two major weaknesses for the Ossiarchs. After the nerf of Petrifix Elite they’re in a pretty decent place, with their brand new models they’re a great army to start playing with and the fact you have fewer units to track makes it a lot easier for a new player to get to grips with the game. Will you lead Nagash to victory against Sigmar and the gods of Chaos? Are you already a servant of the Great Necromancer? Tell us your experiences playing with Ossiarch Bonereapers on social media or at