Saga of the Beast Review: Orks

An article by    Competitive Play Gaming Reviews Tactics Warhammer 40k        0

Orks is, obviously, Da Best. However, just in case Orks weren’t definitely, completely, totally Da Best, we’re sure there are many Warbosses out there who’ve been looking forward to getting their turn in the Psychic Awakening. Well shout a great Waaagh to the sky, because the wait is over and this week you can pre-order Saga of the Beast, bringing new rules for the green tide, headed up by Ghazghkull himself. Games Workshop have been kind enough to send us a preview copy, so we’re here to do our parts as prophets of Gork and Mork and tell you what’s coming in this new book. Let’s stop muckin’ about and get to it!

What They Get

Every faction gets a slightly different mix of toys in the Psychic Awakening, and as well as a few things that are pretty familiar Orks get a couple of unique-ish options. These are similar to some abilities that have come before, but have a slightly different implementation to make them a bit more Orky.

The Ork section of the book brings:

  • New datasheets for Ghazghkull, Makari and the Big Mek with Kustom Force Field.
  • Two new pages of stratagems.
  • Specialist Mobs, which are somewhere between custom faction traits and additional subfactions.
  • Kustom Jobs, relic-like special abilities that can be applied to vehicles.
  • Clan Psychic powers, giving Weirdboys from the codex Clans an additional choice.

Overall Impression

Credit: RichyP

The boost given to each faction by their Psychic Awakening book has varied quite a bit, from runaway winners like Blood Angels and Grey Knights all the way down to the scraps thrown at Drukhari and Genestealer Cults. The Ork options in Saga of the Beast sit firmly in the middle of the road – there are a limited number of no-brainer abilities that are just great to have access to, but the bulk of the abilities focus on lifting up some mid-tier units and strategies rather than turbo-charging the stuff that’s already great (with one very notable exception). From our point of view that’s the ideal place for these to land – one of the weaker parts of 8th edition has been the number of units that get left on the wayside in a competitive environment, so anything that gives people a reason to take another look at them gets a thumbs up from us. However, if you’re coming into this solely looking for ways in which your army of 200 Evil Sunz Boyz and Stormboyz is going to be even more of a nightmare to play against, don’t expect to pick up too much. People with 18 Smasha Guns on the other hand…well, wait and see.

If you’re not familiar with the faction, it’s probably also worth going and having a quick scan over out Start Competing guide for Orks before reading the rest of this.

Datasheets

Ghazgkhull Thraka

Credit: Warhammer Community

I was going to make an “oh lawd he comin'” joke here but the fine minds operating the Warhammer Community Facebook page beat me to it so I guess we’ll have to dive straight into this.

By now, many of you have probably seen Ghaz’s profile (GW put it on Facebook) and if you’re plugged in to the competitive scene, you’ve probably seen lots of opinions about him! For those coming to this completely fresh, his statline has been substantially re-worked to properly represent his orky magnificence, keeping his existing buff auras but gaining points in a number of stats and becoming a 12W monster. Crucially, in order to prevent him just being immediately shot off the board because of that, his Prophet of Gork and Mork ability has been expanded such that he can lose a maximum of four wounds per phase.

That’s huge, because it means that armies who throw out most of their damage in a single phase need three turns to chunk through him, and shooting armies in particular can’t just blow him off the board on turn one (though watch out for overwatch against armies like Tau, as the Charge phase is another chance to lose wounds). Gradual attrition will take him down, especially as being a MONSTER rather than INFANTRY means that only the Medi-Squig stratagem can heal him, but if your opponent lets him get in their face with too much health they’re in real trouble. Ghaz starts out at 5 S14 AP-4 D4 attacks, and while the strength goes down as he takes damage (only as far as 10) the number of attacks actually increases, meaning that as your opponent grinds through him he does the same back to them. It also makes him especially deadly if you decide to fight on death with Orks is Never Beaten. His Great Waaagh aura also remains extremely powerful, giving nearby ORK INFANTRY +1A and Advance/Charge, and is now even better because he can be taken in any detachment without breaking Clan Kulturs. If you do decide to take him as a Goff he also sports a fancy new re-roll 1s aura for melee attacks, which both boosts up his Boyz and makes his own attacks even more deadly.

Obviously this package isn’t cheap, and Ghaz weighs in at a pretty hefty 285pts, making him a very substantial commitment compared to a Warboss (especially as those just got better thanks to Da Biggest Boss). That does, obviously, raise the question of whether Ghaz gets there in lists, and after some initial excitement the overall community take on him has been somewhat negative.

From my own point of view, while I think he’s probably ended up a little bit too pricy, I think the community has been slightly too quick to totally write Ghaz off, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him used with some success. I’d pin that on two factors:

  1. The two key complaints I’ve seen, which are that his MONSTER keyword cuts off some options and that he can get tarpitted are overstated.
  2. People are underestimating just how much Prophet of Gork and Mork can change the dynamic of the game.

Having the monster keyword is definitely a downside for Ghaz, as it cuts him off from being able to Advance and Charge and from access to a few abilities. If you plan on footslogging him the former is a problem, but the Tellyporta stratagem is right there and there’s really no downside to bringing him in via it (in fact arguably a considerable upside, as we’ll discuss in a sec). The tarpitting complaint I just don’t see at all – Ork Boyz, especially with Ghaz’s buff, can just trivially delete pretty much any unit usable as a tarpit, and if that unit chooses to charge and engage Ghaz they’re actively opening themselves up to being countercharged and brutally murdered. There’s really nothing that wants to get in a fight with Ghaz – anything big is near guaranteed to come off worse, while anything small is going to get swamped by the green tide.

The enormous shift he can inflict on game dynamics is the bigger thing for me though. Plenty of armies in the game (and mine is certainly one of them) lean heavily on being able to inflict a vicious counterattack on anything that gets too close – you put out a valuable enough target that they have to attack and go for it, but you make sure that you’re ready to hit back and make them pay for it twice over.

If Ghaz hits your lines on full wounds, many armies simply cannot do this, and given he can deep strike that’s what a lot of armies are going to have to try and deal with. A few can – if he’s at the tip of the spear Eldar, Thousand Sons and Grey Knights all have a reasonable shot at one-turning him, but a kunnin’ Ork player will adapt their strategy in response. Boy-heavy Ork armies pick up quite a lot of their wins through overwhelming pressure – they flood the board and objectives with bodies, roll heavy hitting squads into the enemy front line, and keep them suppressed while racking up a big score. To beat that, the other army has to kill off the stuff that’s hitting them and stop themselves getting overwhelmed – but now the Ork player has access to a pressure piece they can deploy which guarantees that for one turn, the big Orky boot is staying on the opponent’s neck. Especially in the ITC, Ork games are won and lost on which turn the other player manages to “break out”, sufficiently pushing back the horde that they can start operating around the board and taking back objectives.

Yes, he costs more than an entire squad of Boyz, but if it turns out that in enough games Ghaz can allow you to dictate when that happens I think there’s a potential place for him. He’s also, it’s important to note, very good in some matchups that Boyz lists can struggle with – he goes through Centurions like a hot knife where horde units will die in droves, and if Knights come back in a big way he’s also excellent there.

He might not get there, but we now know that Ghaz has come back from having his entire head chopped off, so it seems pretty unwise to count him out till we’ve seen him in action!

Makari

Credit: Warhammer Community

Along with Ghaz himself, this release brings a new model and rules for his legendary standard bearer Makari. He’s raised a few eyebrows with his Suspiciously Lucky ability, which grants him a 2++, but overall he definitely comes across as more of a “fluff” unit than a strictly competitive one. He is, for what it’s worth, a completely separate unit to Ghaz, being an HQ choice all of his own (as I know some people were assuming they might come as a pair). He weighs in at 65pts.

His main actual buff is the banner he brings, which gives GOFF ORK units within 6″ a 6+++ as long as Makari is within 3″ of Ghaz. In theory the upside of this over a Painboy is that Ghaz himself can benefit from it (as can, weirdly, vehicles) but in practice a FNP is no use to Ghaz – if your opponent is hurting him it makes very little practical difference to how hard it is for them to hit his per phase damage cap. Makari also doesn’t have any ability to join a non-Goff detachment without breaking the Kultur.

That would basically narrow him down to only being worth it in a heavily Goff army that was planning to footslog Ghaz up the board. Given I think Ghaz is best bursting out of a Tellyporta, I don’t expect Makari to see that much play. Being a character with a 2++ is pretty hilarious, but he’s not cheap enough to be worth taking on that basis alone. It is still awesome to see such a cool additional model landing alongside Ghaz himself.

Big Mek with Kustom Force Field

Big Mek. Credit: Kevin Genson

Finally solving the mystery of where the actual datasheet for one of these was, we have the Big Mek with KFF. There’s not much to say tactically about these as they’ve already been allowed (and heavily used) in competitive play, but there a couple of things to flag. I kind of expect both of these to get reverted in the FAQ, but as it stands three things about the unit have changed.

  1. The KFF has lost the ability to confer an invulnerable save to a transport while embarked in it. The sucks for people trying to use Stompas and Gorkanauts, but I expect this is just an omission and it’ll come back shortly.
  2. It now only affects <CLAN> units. Not sure about this one – it’s weird that there are now two diverging versions of the aura from different units.
  3. The points cost hasn’t changed – but now lists as including equipment. Since KFFs cost 20pts, that makes the unit 20pts cheaper.

I expect the latter to get a fairly swift reversion as well, but normally this is where I’d encourage you to enjoy two weeks of benefitting from it. Obviously given the current global situation that’s less of a thing. Please do not break quarantine just to make use of under-costed Orks.

Edit: A commenter has pointed out that it also now seems to work in melee. At this point, much like the guns on The Eight in Greater Good, we’ll have to wait for the FAQ to fully see what’s going on here.

Stratagems

Credit: SRM

The stratagem section of these is always good fun because more than anything else they are pure upside – having more options is always good, and Ork lists tend to have copious quantities of CP to play with. Just like a lot of the books, many of the strats here are unit-specific buffs that give you additional options when fielding some of the less core choices in the army.

Games Workshop have already previewed some very potent options in Da Biggest Boss, giving a warboss +1W, +1A and a 4++ and Flyin’ ‘Eadbutt, which lets you automatically crash and explode a flyer at the end of your movement phase. Both of these have been heavily analysed already and yes, they’re both good – the former is a no-brainer add to whichever warboss you expect to be most in the thick of it, while the latter is nasty in combination with the 3MW explosion of a Burna Bomba. Losing a whole unit is a real cost, but some armies (cough Tau cough) are going to be extremely unhappy about you dropping a 3MW explosion on their castle. Burna Bombas actually get even more love in the form of the Wildfire stratagem, which for 1CP lets you choose a second unit to apply their bomb effect to within 6″ of the target you flew over (though without the +1 to the rolls for INFANTRY if relevant). Taken together a single Burna Bomba potentially represents a rather horrific amount of MW alpha strike for their very reasonable cost.

The other important previewed strat, Klever Spanner, is also very potent on a big unit of Lootas (letting them roll 2d3 and pick the highest for their shots). 2CP isn’t cheap, but it’s very likely to pay for itself over the course of the game, and ensures they’re always operating at full efficiency.

Outside of what we’ve already seen, quite a few other vehicles pick up neat tricks. We’ll talk about Kustom Jobs later, but here Stompas and the big Dreads pick up Patch Up to act as if they had double the wounds remaining, while several of the Orktober wagons get unique tricks. The best is probably the Shokkjump Dragsta getting to fire and fade through its shock tunnel after shooting, but the funniest (and possibly peak stratagem design of the edition) is that “Tom Hardy Grot” on the Boomdakka Snazzwagon now has his own strat, allowing each one of these to just automatically pass a save once per battle. Rest in pieces you tiny brave green soul.

Credit: Soncaz

The final really good ones are Hit ‘Em Harder and Speshul Shells. The former gives a unit of Meganobz +1D for a phase (for only a single CP). That’s a very spicy boost, taking their average damage with Klaws up to three a pop and importantly ensuring they reliably blender 2W stuff as they can’t low roll their damage any more. Meganobz were fringe competitive anyway – this should cement their place in some lists. Speshul Shells gives Flash Gitz +12″ range on snazzguns for a phase. It’s pricier at 2CP, and the Gitz are still a tricky sell compared to Lootas and Tankbustas, but low range was one of their major weaknesses and this helps a huge amount with that, so it can only help!

While a lot of what remains is for units that still probably won’t get there competitively, they’ll still make playing with the units better in more casual games, so overall this section is a big win for Ork players of all stripes.

Specialist Mobs

Credit: Greg “Greggles” Hess

Specialist Mobs are, to all intents and purposes, just additional Clans that only benefit certain units.

When picking an Ork unit with a <CLAN> keyword, instead of replacing it with a clan name you can replace it with one of the 8 specialist mobs in this section. This has exactly the same effect on abilities that use the <CLAN> keyword as any other would, and just like a normal clan you only get any benefit from it if the entire detachment takes the same specialist mob keyword. If you do that, then certain units within the detachment (different for each of these) gains a Subkultur special ability.

Up front that makes this a tough sell, and these are, overall, a little bit disappointing. Going into it I’d assumed they’d allow you to combine them with a normal clan, but they’re a straight up replacement and that’s a problem right there because the three “good” Ork Clan Kulturs are really good. Shooting abilities need to be very good to compete with Bad Moons (for INFANTRY) or Deathskulls (for everyone else) while any ability aimed at hordes of Boyz or melee options has to compete with Evil Sunz.

By and large, bluntly, these don’t quite manage to get there (with one crucial exception). The options available are:

  • Pyromaniacs: Boosts to flame weapons.
  • Huntas: Boosts to infantry when hiding in or attacking units in terrain.
  • Boomboyz: Boosts to rokkits, stickbombz and a whole laundry list of big gunz.
  • Flyboyz: Perma-cover for units with FLY.
  • Grot Mobs: Boosts to GRETCHIN.
  • Tin Eads: Boosts to dreads and mega armoured units.
  • Feral Orks: Boosts to advances and pile-ins for some units.
  • Madboyz: A random buff to INFANTRY/BIKERs each turn.

Of these, two stand out. Grot Mobs are the massive, massive winners because unlike everything else on the list, the units affected lose very little to take them. The Subkultur gives all GRETCHIN units a 6++, and GRETCHIN vehicles re-roll 1s to hit. As has been pointed out by Warhammer Community that includes Smasha Guns, and anyone who’s had the misfortune to play against an army with 18 of those is probably wincing at the thought of them now having a 6++ and re-roll 1s to hit. A battalion with some Weirdboyz, Grots and 18 of these is something I expect to see tried in a lot of armies – it’s a horrendous amount of firepower and a nightmare to shift. It is worth remembering that putting Grots in these detachments isn’t totally cost free, as they can no longer Grot Shields anything else, but you’re probably still happy to pay 90pts to fill out the detachment here!

The other one that I think has some chance of getting there is Boomboyz. This gives +1S and +1AP to any weapon with rokkit or stikkbomb in the name, plus a decently sized list of other specific ones. This is a pretty hefty boost in some matchups – quite a lot of these guns tend to be good already, pushing to S9 means they’re wounding just about everything on 3s at worst, and extra AP is more and more relevant in the metagame. Tankbustas have seen some use in the Loota slot in lists, but for a single unit I don’t think these boosts beat the double-shoot stratagem of Bad Moons. What they do potentially let you do, however, is go deeper on Tankbustas, taking multiple units riding in open-topped transports and pulling off sick drive-bys, because unlike stratagem boosts this will still apply to mounted units. Especially with one of the Kustom Jobs making a basic Battlewagon a pretty decent platform, I can see this being attempted by Ork players that want to try something a little different (backed up by Mekatrakk Scrapjets, who also win big from this). While the focus is going to be on the rokkits, the boost does also make any unit of 10 models throwing stikkbombz with Extra Stikkbombz a real threat to a lot of stuff – 30-odd S4 AP-1 shots will do some damage even at Ork accuracy!

Outside of these two, there’s some cool stuff here but nothing that persuades me it opens up a build one of the existing Kulturs doesn’t do better. Much like GSC I think there’s a problem of the original Ork codex being very strong and using up a lot of the potential design space of these. I think some additional support, perhaps in the form of a stratagem letting you take a single detachment with a Kultur and a Subkultur, would have been worth testing.

Kustom Jobs

Credit: That_Red_Gobbo

Back to some happy stuff now with another section that’s basically pure upside. Kustom Jobs are a frankly huge range (18 in total) of upgrades for vehicles. You can add these to your army in two ways:

  • If you have any Mekboy Workshops, you get one for free.
  • You can add them with the 1CP Kustom Job stratagem. This is pre-battle and has no limit on the number of uses, so go Ork-wild! Since Mekboy Workshops implicitly cost at least 1CP, this will also almost always be the way you get them.

Each Kustom Job you take must be unique, and each unit can only have one. Most of these specify a certain sub-set of vehicles they can apply to, and importantly if you choose to take one for a Speed Mob or Dread Mob all of the models in the unit get the boost, even after they split into multiple units on deployment.

There is, frankly, something for everyone here – while probably not as good as the Tau prototype systems there’s some real power in these pages (Gregnote: The Tau prototypes also use up relic slots, so they aren’t unlimited like these – which is fine, because taking 5 or 6 prototype weapons systems would be, frankly, grody as all hell).

First off, the question on every true Ork player’s lips – is there something for the Stompa?!?!?!

The answer is yes and it’s surprisingly great. I’ll be honest and say it’s still not gonna make it competitive but it is a hefty buff – the Blitza-Gatler upgrades the supa-gatler to be D2, and gives it one free re-roll per phase on the Psycho-dakka-blasta ability. Really and truly that gun should always have been D2 out of the box, and it can now mow down pathetic Primaris marines like it should always have been able to. The Stompa still has most of its issues, being a gigantic target that can just be murdered, but between this and Patch Up you’ll have more fun if you put one on the table. If you do, always, always, always take this. Errata the point cost of the Stompa in your mind to say “and 1CP” next to it. There is no reason you ever wouldn’t.

Out of the rest, there are far too many to cover everything so I’ll focus on the three I think have the most potential. First up, and continuing the theme of big shooty bois, we have Sparkly Bitz. This gives a Deff Dread, Morkanaut, Killa Kans or Gorkanaut unit +1BS. Morkanauts are sitting on the edge of being usable and with the amount of powerful shooting they pack this is a really hefty upgrade, especially in a Dread Mob where they can double shoot. It’s also just about plausible that a full unit of Deff Dreads with four kustom mega blasters or rokkit launchers (the latter maybe in a Boomboyz specialist mob) could get enough from it to be worth it.

Next up we have the Korkscrew. This buffs a Mekatrakk Scrapjet unit (so up to three models) with the ability to fight a second time after consolidating. The combination of potent shooting and decent melee meant that these were already on the cusp of viability in Deathskulls, and massively boosting their combat output (in a way that plays well with the Deathskulls Kultur) can only help with that.

Credit: SRM

Finally, we have the Forktress. This gives a Battlewagon (or either of the variants) a 3+ base save and a 5++. That’s pretty cool, making them substantially more resilient and (given they’re pretty economically priced) makes the option of taking a fairly bare-bones Battlewagon or Bonebreaka as a gigantic distraction and/or open-topped shooting platform potentially interesting. For those that like shooty wagons there are also some gun upgrades aimed at the Gunwagon, but unfortunately these need an FAQ to be worth it, since as it stands the wording prevents them from benefitting from the Periscope and shooting twice.

Most of the units the really good ones of these apply to weren’t quite top tier as it stood, but adding a host of boosts and new options for them takes quite a few up to the edge of viability, and opens up proper Hear Me Out level potential on several units. I really like this part of the book, and am keen to see which ones Ork players make land.

Clan Powers

Credit: Soncaz

The final addition Orks get is Clan Powers. Similar to what we saw for the various forces of the Hive Mind, <CLAN> Psykers can replace one of their known powers with the relevant one of these. This is at least somewhat fiddly for Orks given that by default Weirdboyz only know one power each. You can add a second with the Warphead strat, but adding these to your list comes with a real cost either in CP or the opportunity cost of missing out on another power. The flip side of that is that the “core” weirdboy powers aren’t <CLAN> locked, and it’s pretty common to see a detachment of two Weirdboyz and 30 Grots that doesn’t really care about Kulturs. That setup could support mixing and matching Weirdboyz of several Kulturs if you particularly wanted any of these. We’re getting ahead of ourselves though – are they worth it? The outlook is mixed.

Clear winners are the Deathskulls. As is the fashion for the boyz in blue, their power (Maniacal Seizure, WC7) does multiple things, allowing you to pick a unit within 18″ and both give it -1 to hit rolls till your next psychic phase and grant all attacks by Deathskulls units against it +1AP. This is obviously absurdly potent in a heavy Deathskulls list, and they’re one of the few clans that can go wide while staying nearly monofaction. It’s also worth noticing that unlike a lot of stuff this does help Deathskulls GRETCHIN, so all the grots you brought to fill out detachments suddenly hit that much harder. Even without the -1 to hit this would be useful – with that as well it’s fantastic.

Evil Sunz get a potentially very potent power, but one that’s high risk. At WC6 (or 9 when targeting a unit with 18+ wounds), Visions in the Smoke gives an EVIL SUNZ VEHICLE unit full hit re-rolls. If you can land that on either a Morkanaut or a Stompa that’s absolutely spectacular, but it comes with the risk that if you try and cast it and fail then your centrepiece unit is worse-off than if it was Bad Moons. While you can get the weirdboy to +3 to cast, that’s still a serious risk. I want to believe that, along with Sparkly Bitz, this is enough of a boost to make a Bad Moons Morkanaut worth trying, but it may not be quite enough. It is, for what it’s worth, hilariously good in combination with More Dakka on a big unit, so if you dream of making a Stompa work, here’s where to look.

The final one that might see use (probably in a mixed Weirdboy/Grot detachment) is Jolly Ork’s Glare, the Freebooterz power which is similar to Tenebrous Curse, halving the move of an enemy unit within 18″ and giving them -1″ to Advance/Charge as well. This is a neat ability in some matchups, so making one of your Weirdboyz a cool pirate so they can take this with Warphead when needed seems reasonable.

The others probably aren’t going to see much use. The Blood Axe power relies on you having some relevant Blood Axe units, which you probably don’t, the Bad Moons power gives +1 to a unit’s non-invulnerable saves, which isn’t great in an army where base saves are pretty bad, and the Goff’s power is a weird miss, giving a unit a minimum 7″ charge after modifiers.

More options are always nice, but only the Deathskulls power here really feels like it’s got the potential to shake up list design, with the accumulated ways you can buff a Morkanaut in Evil Sunz being the only other possible dark horse.

Wrap Up

…and with that, other than the all important name generator (tag yourselves, I’m Grodd Stompkrumpa) we come to the end of the Ork rules. While Specialist Mobs feel like a bit of a missed opportunity, there’s a nice variety of cool toys here riding along with Big Ghaz. There are enough flat boosts to keep people who want to stick to known quantities happy, and some great options for people who want to try out some proper Orky experimentation. If you have any comments, especially if you want to tell me that my lukewarm defence of Ghazghkull means I am literally the worst at this game, hit us up at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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