The Incarnate In the Mortal Realms

The Incarnate of Ghur, and Incarnates, are the most interesting addition to Age of Sigmar since the start Third Edition and something that has been on my mind for a long time. Despite the recent battlepack including specific rules for Incarnates this model hasn’t felt like an intended part of the watertight Third Edition. I’d like to go through the non-lore history of the incarnate, the rules for the specific Incarnate of Ghur and Incarnates in general, the impact on the meta, and how the designers could and should think about the Incarnate of Ghur and Incarnates in general. Finally, I’d like to offer some humble suggestions on what design levers could be adjusted to make the model more fun and less reliant on the jank cycle.

I LOVE that Age of Sigmar is that the game that experiments with new rules and ideas. For whatever reason, the combination of play on the table, the models, and the player community are just in that perfect spot that we’re always talking about, thinking about, and complaining about how things should play. In third edition Games Workshop has done a pretty good job of adding new models, book releases, and quirks to the game to keep me interested and talking about this. Today the games battle tactics are very different from the first GHB where “hold hands and run three units” was worth three victory points if you had three monsters do it. If you showed a 2021 player “retreat two units and charge with two different units” battle tactic they would need to be reset. An upside of playing a game that takes a ton of swings is that we figure out some things first and when the rules are right they positively sing. It’s impossible to look at 10th Edition Warhammer 40,000 and not see Age of Sigmar’s influence on unit composition, stratagems, and enhancements. Many of those concepts were tested in Age of Sigmar (did you know that offering a DISCOUNT on reinforced units encourages deathstars?). Hopefully we take some terrain rules from Warhammer 40,000.

A core part of my joy is seeing Age of Sigmar evolve over time as the rules writers take big swings on things that work and sometimes fail. A prime example is the “fun dice” mechanic in the current Generals Handbook. It’s a great system that allows for luck and skill in a phase of the game that had too often been reduced to “I autocast or auto unbind” or “I can’t reliably get this cool spell off”. In my opinion the Incarnate just doesn’t work, doesn’t fit in with the broader game, and needs some help from the rules writers to find a place. We’ve only seen one Incarnate as the production schedule in Nottingham was filled up with Space Marine Lieutenants and Sergeants. I expect SOMEBODY in the lore to break something in the near future so we have a choice of between two of more Incarnates in the near future.

Bob the Great Brought This Thing to the Battle – Can We Keep It?

I imagine the Incarnate of Ghur hanging out with an unassuming hero. Let’s call him Bob the Great. He’s a chill dude living his best life in in the mortal realms that managed to harness the power of an Incarnate and is now about to fight his mortal enemy who are deployed 18 inches away. He’s not special (see the rules below) and is part of an entire army with similar goals. Since the release of the Incarnate of Ghur Bob the Great has alternated from being the most important part of the army, where his friends are literally changing the battle plan to include him, to being told to go hang out someplace else because they don’t need him or his stupid earth elemental. Sadly for Bob the Great, the more likely it is his friends can kill him or otherwise break his bound with the murderbones he’s brought the more likely it is he’s coming to the battle. If Bob the Great is part of a Tzeentch army he is absolutely getting merced 2.9 seconds after the first turn starts.

In theory Age of Sigmar list construction is a pretty simple business. You pick a general, you pick three battleline, you fill out the rest with units from your book, and your play. Once you start to add in invocations, endless spells (excluding faction specific spells), mercenaries, regiments of renown (added later), warmasters, allies, coalition units, and Incarnates things become a bit more complex. This isn’t a bad thing, but when any single one of the options becomes a default choice it isn’t good for the game. Furthermore, and outside the scope if this article, some players don’t adhere to a specific faction and go actively hunting the advantageous rules to help them win games. These ronin are of often the first to experiment and take advantage of janky rules interactions.

Allowing something like the incarnate is “fair” since everyone has access to it. In practice the Incarnate, like endless spells, is accessible by everyone but doesn’t provide the same advantage to every player. Additionally, because of the large points investment in the Incarnate of Ghur one can’t just say “Oh, I’ll throw it in” like a well costed endless spell. Generally, the “sameness” of the Incarnate is because the impactful points in a list are coming from a warscroll that everyone has access to. Other warscrolls and models that can be taken by multiple armies, like the mega mercenaries and Regiments of Renown, are limited a single grand alliance in most cases.

So what does it do?

Krondspine Incarnate of Ghur. Credit: Michael O “mugginns”

The Incarnate of Ghur introduced a new type of model and rule type to the game. Simply put, all Incarnates share certain rules while only the Incarnate of Ghur’s warscroll has certain other rules. As of January 2024 we only have a single Incarnate, the Incarnate of Ghur, so the rules aren’t always distinct in players minds.

All Incarnates share the following rules:

  • Incarnates are Bonded to a hero in the army. An incarnate is treated as a unit consisting of 1 model
  • An incarnate is a unique Enhancement and cannot be bonded to more than one Hero. Nor can a Hero be bonded to more than one Incarnate. As an Enhancement and Incarnate cannot be bonded to a unique Hero.
  • If the Hero an Incarnate is bonded to is slain the Incarnate reverts to wild form – it is part of your army but treats other units in your army as enemy units.
  • Incarnates have states – each state has a level and domination range shown on its warscroll. Incarnates start a battle at level 2. An incarnate can never go above level 3 and when it reached level 0 it is removed from play. Most opponents like removing the Incarnate from play.
  • Wounds are allocated to incarnates in the same way as they are to any other model. However, an incarnate cannot be slain. In the battleshock phase roll 3D6 – if this roll is less than or equal to the number of wounds allocated to the incarnate its level is reduced by 1.
  • Incarnates are treated as having 18 wounds for rules purposes other than determining if it is slain.
  • Bonding – each incarnate will have an effect on a hero they are bonded to
  • Empowerment – How does the incarnate increase in level?
  • Wild Form – The effect that being in its wild form has on the incarnate.
  • One last note – you can always include an incarnate in your army list, even if it would cost more than your cap of 20% on allies, but you can’t include any other allies.

That is a lot to process. You’re bonding, your looking at states, you’re rolling dice in the battleshock phase to delevel. An incarnate can go wild. However, nothing in these rules is egregious. The two particular rules around bonding and army construction are well thought out and provide some limits how incarnates can be used.

First, it has a pretty good damage profile with an attacks characteristic that is modified by the current level so each profile starts off with two additional attacks. Using the helpful aos-statshammer app a level two incarnate will do about 12 damage to against a 4+ save profile and 15 damage when given all-out attack against the same profile. While this is impressive, is it 480 points impressive? Not for most armies at that price especially considering the base strength of many warscrolls from armies released in 2023. What else could be on the warscroll? Let’s look at the bonding, empowerment, and wild form.

Bonding –

The Incarnate of Ghur can only receive command issued by the hero it is bonded to. If the all-out attack command is received bit it, all friendly units that are wholly within domination range that are within 3″ of an enemy unit do as well. Add 1 to casting, dispelling and unbinding rolls for a wizard within domination range of an incarnate they are bonded to.

Cool, +1 to cast and dispel is good. free all-out attack is pretty good too.


If a monster is slain by wounds inflicted by this incarnates attacks, increase this incarnates level by 1. Additionally, the Incarnate of Ghur has a monstrous rampage that allows him to attempt to eat and endless spell that is not friendly to the Incarnate of Ghur. IF the action is successful (a normal dispel roll) the spell is dispelled and the incarnate gains a level. If it fails the incarnate loses a level.

Ok, killing monsters is always a thing in Ghur, and there is a high risk move to eat an endless spell. However, having an endless spell on the table isn’t always available since your opponent can choose to not cast them to empower your Incarnate of Ghur.

Wild Form-

Add 1 to hit rolls while in wild form. The incarnate can run and charge in its wild form. If it is wild it must charge if within 12 of a unit or endless spell. Note that the incarnate doesn’t get worse in wild form, it only gets better. Control isn’t passed from you to your opponent, it just doesn’t consider your units friendly. If locked into combat you’re going to have to attack your own units.

So you’re telling me that if Bob the Great dies, the Incarnate of Ghur can attempt to eat an endless spell? Hopefully the game designers don’t include any endless spells with low casting costs that explode when eaten….

Credit Games Workshop

Inflamed Savagery –

While wholly within domination range (ranging from 8-12 depending on the empowered level of the incarnate. This units commanding player can reroll run rolls and charge rolls for units wholly within the domination range. Units cannot retreat. If the unit is a wizard that is not bonded to this incarnate subtract 1 from casting, dispelling, and unbinding rolls.

Ok, I see it now. Bob the Great found an anvil that can’t be killed for at least two rounds of combat if the player doesn’t do anything stupid. That is pretty good and if Bob dies there is all sorts of jank that can be unleashed.

Wow – With All Those Rules It Must Look Pretty Cool….

Absolutely not. There are divisive models with long legs. There are models that look great and have a butterface. Sometimes models look really really cool and don’t travel well. Rarely does a model combine all of the negative attributes that we put up with as miniwargamers. If anyone would come up to me and say that they liked the Incarnate of Ghur I would put on my best Dr. Phil and say “This is your man.”

Credit: Warhammer Community

As a model, the Incarnate of Ghur is a completely uninspired failure devoid of character and without redemption. Sometimes when a model or faction become popular you end up seeing some pretty rough “finished” models at events where the players clearly wanted to get the models on the table before a balance patch. There’s some honor in getting your 2000 points painted and based prior to the event. The Incarnate of Ghur is so generic and simple that nobody, nobody, is going to give it a second look and say “what a bad paint job”. What’s worse is that we KNOW Games Workshop can do so much better with centerpiece models. Look at the care, attention, and price that is put into Megas, Alarielle, and Gobsprakk. Historically model designers are extremely thoughtful in using the models to tell a story. Kairos Fateweaver, an older named Lord of Change, has a lower neck compared to the generic model as a way of communicating story and lore through the sculpt of the model. With the Incarnate of Ghur the story seems to be ‘needed more time in the oven”

Personally, I don’t like written lore all that much. However, I have twice as much love for models that tell a story – like Hobgrots having chaos dwarf armor or the look of a Fanatic who realizes too late he made a very bad choice. The only story that the Incarnate tells me is that somebody said they had a pretty cool model waiting around and somehow it got approved and moved into production without anyone saying “Where is the rest?”. If I were looking for a way to get people to say “I can design a better model than that” it would be hard to top the Incarnate of Ghur for it’s banality and lack of character. It’s incongruity with the combination of nostalgia, kitsch, and experimentation that defined the best Age of Sigmar models.

Typically people talk about 3-D printing as something that will displace minis and hurt sales. It don’t really like a ton of the 3-D models and think that GW’s sculpts are often really good. The Incarnate was the first model that I was EVER motivated to buy a 3D sculpt and only purchased the thing second hand. It is one of the rare models produced by GW since 2018 where a 3-D printed version isn’t just a choice made for aesthetics but because many many designers can put a spiral on a base that easily matches the look without question. When I see a curved toilet cleaner on the table I know my opponent is going to point to another model and say “my incarnate is bound to Bob the Great”.

While my Incarnate of Ghur proxy this might be full of copyright violations, at least it has some character.

Even now, Games Workshop seems to acknowledge that this model ain’t it with a real dollar price tag of $60. This is incredibly low for a centerpiece model on a 130mm base that you only need one of and more in line with a terrain piece. Even compared to older “elite” models this is a bargain for a GW model that they’re practically giving away the model. If the model looks like crap, and the rules are weird, we must have had a big role out for such an important model. How did we get here?

A Non-lore History of the “Krondspine Incarnate of Ghur”

According to the marketing information of record the Krondspine Incarnate of Ghur was announced March 24, 2022 as part of the Thondian Strongpoint set. There isn’t much information on the first marketing blast but I remember thinking that the announcement and inclusion in the box of terrain was a surprise. A lot of people wondered if this was a narrative only item with some matched play rules thrown in. Season of War: Thondia, was to accompany this model and I’m said to say that I own this sad excuse for a book. I don’t understand why I bought it. Various chats that I was part of were asking what the hell this was supposed to be in a manner that didn’t inspire awe, hope, fear, and dread but instead felt like we were being subjected to a weird add-on. I didn’t help that the model was included in a terrain box of questionable value and theme. Was this to be a narrative thing? What is a Season of War and was it just fancy bedtime stories?

At the time nobody really cared about the Kronespine Incarnate of Ghur because there were some banger Nighthaunt models being released. Nighthaunt, like Kruleboyz after them, suffered greatly in being a new launch army that had underwhelmed on the tabletop so they had a large following of people who owned them from getting into 2nd edition. However, the shooting ghosts (bad on the table), boatman, and a release box with new models but not a new battletome. The placement of the Incarnate of Ghur felt almost like an afterthought sandwiched between the Nighthaunt/Daughters box and the release of the battletomes. If Games Workshop didn’t care about this thing why should we?

Including the above referenced post there were five additional Warhammer Community articles that discussed the book and the Incarnate. One, written April 6th 2022, outlined some of the rules of the Incarnate of Ghur, including the lack of a wounds characteristic, special monstrous rampage, and the ability to go wild. It also referenced that there are “three ways to play” indicating that this was, yes, something that was considered in matched play. April 7th saw a stirring discussion of Path to Glory and six new narrative battles. The next day the Warhammer Community featured the Anvil of Apotheosis. This is decidedly not something that is focused on matched play and is still not supported by the official warhammer app. Finally, the long-awaited preorder post arrived April 9th 2022. Five posts in a span of three weeks is a pretty weird rollout for an entirely new archtype of model that came to be a big part of “Wet Hot Incarnate Summer”. Even Warhammer TV, the official app of Games Workshop beloved by pay pigs like myself who get a model and forget to paint it once per year, didn’t have a battle report highlighting the Incarnates new rules. Not long after this they released a battle report with rules for Sylvaneth vs. Skaven box using the new GHB rules would work showing that they understood that the battle reports can highlight new rules.

Going back and researching the history made me question if I had been remembering the rollout correctly. I remember the people mostly ignored the model beyond some rules discussions. At the time we were dealing with Nurgle, excited about Nighthaunt, Daughters of Khaine, and feeling the aftereffects of Fyreslayers and Deepkin. After a slow start third edition was getting codex releases and there was some excitement over a new GHB. Looking at the sadly purchased Season of War:Thondia book provides a clue that the incarnate may not have been intended for such a sad and abbreviated release schedule.

The Incarnate got off to a slow start as well. With the change of the GHB, new battletomes for long-beloved armies (Sylvaneth, Skaven, Nighthaunt) happening in the game a model hidden behind a pricey terrain box it wasn’t something that people immediately rushed off to purchase. Once competitive players got ahold of it and really looked at the rules it became meta warping. Prior to going to the Outlaw Open in July 2022 was the first time I really saw it on the table competitivity combined with Tzeentch. Over the summer of 2022 it continued to gain momentum with top players pairing its rules and 400 point pricetag. By September 2022 Competitive Innovations asked:

“You really have to look for the filth to avoid not being presented with the question: “Would my list be better with a giant pile of animated bones made a manifestation of Ghur’s Rage?”    

Months earlier one or two lists in Competitive Innovations took the Incarnate of Ghur, and eventually a large fraction several lists each week were taking it. It became so common to have two Incarnates fighting that players with Incarnates developed strategies around it. Most often, it was to ram the Incarnates into each other and just play a 1600 point game.

It didn’t help that the rules team didn’t really incorporate the Incarnate into Generals Handbook: Pitched Battles 2022-2023 – Season 1 directly. In addition to an infantry focus endless spells were made more a powerful with the Purple Sun and Ravanak’s Gnashing Jaws getting a particularly fun glow-up. The physical book itself doesn’t mention the Incarnate of Ghur except as reused art. The only real mention as part of the GHB came when an FAQ announced that the Incarnate (and Kroak) were not allowed to be selected as Idols for In the Presence of Idols.

Six months later when Generals Handbook: Pitched Battles 2022-2023- Season 2 was released the only mention was …. That Incarnate units cannot be taken as idols.

To be clear, the rules team wasn’t ignoring the Incarnate entirely. There were a few FAQs that clarified some interactions and did some clean up. As more and more competitive lists started to incorporate the Incarnate of Ghur the idea started gaining momentum that “all incarnate lists are the same.” As a pretty active player at that time A LOT of armies could substitute in a 400-point anvil and charge it into your lines. The vast majority of the battle plans in the pitched battles 2022-2023 Season 2 GHB were close together missions that allowed many armies to get into combat very quickly. Season 1, with the bounty hunters rule, allowed non-vets to almost completely swallow up vets and encouraged units to fight sooner.

Tzeentch, with its ability to guarantee the death of a spell caster, were able to ensure they could get a fully wild incarnate into an opponents front line and get an endless spell around to level up the incarnate as needed.  The combination of a wild incarnate and strong magic allowing the reliable summoning of an “enemy” endless spell to feed the incarnate propped up the army and led to more than one FAQ and points increase.

In October 2022 the most significant change to the Incarnate of Ghur happened when the points increased from 400 to 480. It was an acknowledgement of the significant impact it had on list construction and how it was becoming a default choice in making a competitive list. While a few armies continued to use it from time to time the Incarnate Fever had subsided from competitive play. The increase in points, combined with the release of 2023 books with a significantly higher power level saw a decrease in the use of the Incarnate of Ghur with it making only sporadic appearances.

In June 2023, somehow the Incarnate of Ghur returned. With the release of the 2023-2024 Generals Handbook the jank factory fired up again with the worst offending strategy, making your own model “go wild”.  Ironically, this was enabled by the rules writers including paying attention to the model and including specific rules for Incarnates in the 2023-2024 battlepack. The Incarnate of Ghur to be featured in battle tactics, grand strategies, and spell lore in a massive way with Rupture providing the fuel for Bob the Great to drive his own Incarnate wild. Thematically, it made sense that armies fighting in the frozen waste of Andtor would marshal the Incarnate and be prepared to fight against it. Despite being one of the best GHBs of the edition, with a fun dice mechanic that allowed for a more interactive casting, the biggest use of the Incarnate of Ghur was due to a lot of of jank and a little bit of love.

That jank was the immaculate. The ability to make your own incarnate go wild, combined with the ability to be a low drop army, allowed everyone to participate in the “full Tzeentch” from earlier in the summer. As Goonhammer pointed out the rules as written included the possibility of making your own incarnate wild until the spell was changed, alone with a few other balance ideas. The competitive community, after watching what Tzeentch did, was primed and ready to exploit any rules jank because that is how the Incarnate of Ghur had been most successful before.

Now that we sit at 2024 we’re looking at a meta that includes very few Incarnates of Ghur. Like many warscrolls released pre-2023 a Rend -3 attack doesn’t bring the juice that it once did making it purely a pinning piece.  Additionaly, the move away from battle tactics that encourage and require killing meant that it was less useful at shutting down potential tactics for your opponent. Sure, bait and trap might be more difficult for your opponent but the domination range of the Incarnate of Ghur also impacts your units attempting the same battle tactic.

Are Incarnates Good for the Game? Is the Incarnate of Ghur Good for the Game?

Minis games are games – they have rules and math and luck and strategy. I think that the impact of the Incarnate of Ghur has been negative for the game and, as the rules currently read, not fun to play against en mass. Its rewarded playing with jank (eating your own endless spells after going wild, getting better for the player who brought it when its wild) rather than good list construction and has served to be an after thought of the Sigmar rules writers until this season.

In the context of Age of Sigmar this is glaring since the game has always embraced “herohammer” or letting people pull out the biggest and baddest models. Nearly every single model costing over 25% of a standard list has been viable, if not part of a meta list pick, over the course of third edition. Having an Incarnate as an option doesn’t break or upset the game in any inherent way and make things “un-Sigmar”. It commits a worse sin of making things less fun.

When the Incarnate of Ghur has been good it is basically a pinning piece and an anvil. When it’s been bad the model has been banished to the side of the game. The worst abuses (allowing it to eat your own endless spells and regain levels) are enabled by small gaps in the rules as opposed to a model playing the way it should.

The Incarnate of Ghur required a pretty low level of investment compared to other broken jank that people liked to run. Most armies had some fun endless spell combos (the “set up” rules from the bridge could be its own article) and the Purple Sun killing things randomly was one of those things that you could either laugh at or curse God. With endless spells being made more impactful there was a clear intent from the rules writers as they’ve been reworked in each GHB in 3.0.

Miniatures games are filled with cool flavorful models. I know my Rockgut Troggoths are gonna hit like a ton of bricks because they’re a sweet model with a two-handed club and big weapons. Dankholds are gonna hit even harder because they have BIGGER clubs. We know that Games Workshop designs models first, and rules second allowing the rules team to use flavorful rules to bring to life the models that have started as concept art, been 3D printed, and then brought to life in plastic molds for us to paint and play with.

I’ve made my thoughts pretty clear on what I think about the aesthetic qualities of the Incarnate of Ghur are. It doesn’t have to be that way and I don’t think having a large centerpiece model that serves in multiple factions means it needs to be devoid of character. I’d much rather have models take a swing and miss than like this than be…. basic.

Finally, from a packaging and distribution perspective including a model that is so powerful in a one-off narrative book with a bunch of terrain isn’t the right way to distribute a unit like this. Thondia was just a weird amalgamation of stuff that didn’t belong but there isn’t a reason that you couldn’t build a narrative or matched play battlepack around an incarnate. A throw-in with little fanfare is not the correct way to launch an entirely new class of models and hopefully the build-up for the next incarnate will be more substantial. For those of you who didn’t want to use the Incarnate of Ghur there are examples of its rules out in the wild.

What Can Replace the Incarnate of Ghur?

The Incarnate of Ghur isn’t the first model to play with having different rules compared to the standard bonesplitterz unit. In fact, there have been several very successful models that have similar rules.

Gotrek – Order Only

Gotrek, the order wonderkin of the start of 3.0 is an interesting warscroll that has a specific function.  After the initial burst and a points increase he mostly fell out of favor except for a few specific lists (Georgia Warbands own Josh Bennet took down GTs with Motrek while everyone else was focused on the focus of this article). Gotrek is really hard to take down with a weird special rule for reducing damange that has odd potential interactions. Gotrek also has a restriction that he can’t be removed and placed on the board worded in the strongest possible turns.  Consistently, every single FAQ has said “No, you can’t do that” making him have a well defined weakness that anyone can play around. This consistency in making sure Gotrek is taking only 1 point of damage from a source and that he can’t be moved makes looking for janky interactions less profitable at a competitive level.

Lesson learned – Make sure your weakness is really a weakness and can’t be negated.

Morathi- DOK Only

Similar to Gotrek, Morathi performs a similar function in a DOK army of giving you at least 4 combats worth of output. I think the way that GW made her “Can’t heal/Can Only take a certain amount of damage” rule is pretty simple from a rules as written and a rules as intended.

Morathi is a pretty simple model to stop that requires you to do some damage each turn compared to the Incarnate of Ghur, where you want to burst damage it. Since there isn’t a way to increase the damage done to her, or heal her, each player pretty much has a timer of how much longer you need to deal with the problem. Morathi flips the script on “killing a big model” – Trashy little units are great against her.  Give me fyreslayer handaxe throws, spider rider bows, or a pack of undead wolves to fight her instead of a good unit. Like the Incarnate of Ghur, Morathi is basically two linked models. Unlike the Incarnate, damage passes from one to the other and when one goes they both do. From a balance perspective you don’t see a ton of Daughters of Khaine lists without Morathi in them. By making her so efficient and effective at doing her job most of the competitive lists I see include her with a compliment of witch-elves, stabby snakes, or shooty snakes. Such a high usage right might work in the context of a faction, but is an example of internal balance being a bit off.

Credit: Dan Richardson – Don’t tell me that Games Workshop can’t do a curving force of nature with character.

Kroak – Seraphon

Kroak is a bosom buddy of the Incarante of Ghur. Both have you roll 3D6 at the end of a phase. As a player, you want to roll high with Kroak and low with the Incarnate. It would be a kindness to have these rolls be in the same direction.  Kroak is also perfectly pointed at 410 points to prevent him from ever being used as a colleition or allied unit. Restricting him to a single faction allows him to get wonderful flavorful abilities and in many ways he’s carrying an entire army on his back right now. Many of the FAQs and jank that apply to the Incarnate of Ghur also apply to Kroak – no picking him as a “special” model in certain battle plans.

An interesting thought exercise is how different an Incarnate would play if you had to make the 3D6 roll for reduction in level every phase. Would you limit him to 1 per round? Maybe that could be a balancing trigger.

Lesson Learned – Why do we have two different 3D6 rolls?


All of these are grand alliance specific warmasters/allies (with slight restrictions for Archaon/Belakor) that require significant investment and provide specific benefits to an army so I’ll address them together. An OBR army with Nagash is a completely different animal from a typical OBR army. Kragnos makes any destruction army different and modifies the threat range for charges in exciting ways. Belakor has a really neat ability for non-rat chaos models that is impactful to the flow of the game.

Mega-Gargants Mercenaries

These warscrolls are an example of how to do a super ally correctly. They are rarely seen, but the inclusion is often the result of an army shoring up a specific weakness that needs to be solved by the addition of 35 wounds. Big Drogg Fort-kicka is designed to give a death player access to rend 3 and a significant amount of wounds that need to be handled. Anything that goes into him allows the death player to use the army specific recursion to bring back small little models. One-eyed Grunnock is literally built to swing into hordes. Allowing every order army  Odo Godswallow has a great name.

What Should the Incarnate of Ghur do?

I can imagine Play Age of Sigmar in 21 years with eight different Incarnates – one from each realm. Between now and 2045 there should be a pretty good space carved out for these models and use cases that people understand. Additionally, the Incarnate of Ghur feels like an expansion to the base game. For a new player it isn’t mentioned in the core rules and has an entire set of rules that aren’t on the app that govern how it acts. How would you feel if somebody showed up to a casual game with a model that looks like butt, breaks a bunch of rules, and has weird interactions? By no means are the paths below the only way to use Incarnates in the future but I think they are the three most likely and that the Age of Sigmar designers should choose what outcome they want for Incarnates.

Possibility 1: These things are purely narrative in nature and shouldn’t ever be seriously taken to events.

It might be unbalanced in a casual game but you’re giving up so much it doesn’t feel bad. This is a perfect solution for a lot of weird narrative models in the game. Even newly released models like launch Kragnos sometimes fall into this category as units that somebody is committing to the bit by taking. This is probably the safest choice for a model that anyone can literally take and easily accomplished by making it 20% too expensive and never giving it rules attention except to clean up the jank. The issue with making the Incarnate of Ghur a purely narrative model that people take for the joy (Like a Dread Saurian) is that it is absolutely devoid of any redeeming features as a model and doesn’t inspire anything.

Possibility 2: Define a unique role for each Incarnate and make sure that it fulfills that role.

This might take some trial and error. An example of this is the Prismatic Palisade endless spell. It stops shooting, can be countered, and is relatively cheap to include. For 40 points it isn’t an overwhelming investment. If shooting is taking over the game you can throw it in and see if it works.

Certain subfactions also fufill this role in the game. Earlier in the edition when Nurgle Flys were the big bad a specific and obvious counter was sitting right there in Bonesplitters Drakfoot subfaction. Turning off wards and being able to move more bodies onto objectives through a pregame move was the perfect counter. An unused example is in Sylvaneth where the Winterleaf subfaction can combine with the Everdusk season to prevent enemies from being removed and set up again. If an army that teleported out of combat was a huge issue in the meta you would start seeing this combo pop up specifically to stop them.

From a certain point of view the Incarnate of Ghur already has this role – it’s an anvil unit that can be added to any army for 480 points. It can soak up much more than the 36 minimum wounds it takes to kill it because once you’re in combat there are very few ways to get out without chewing through it. What if Namarti Reavers didn’t have to worry about being charged because everything was sucked into combat where they couldn’t retreat? What if you put Morathi and the Incarnate of Ghur into combat for a couple of rounds while you score cheap battle tactics?

In practice all of the use cases take this function and add in the extra jank that feels more like an exploit than anything else. The rules set is too varied with interactions with endless spells, giving all-out attack to friendly forces, and impacting casting and dispelling roles. The flip side is that models in this zone typically aren’t being thought about or used outside of when the meta dictates and offer some extra surprise when brought into a competitive environment.

Possibility 3: Incarnates form a “meta” list that sometimes comes into favor.

I think this is where the Incarnate of Ghur fits right now with the trigger being how janky the “wild” and “no retreat” rules are in the game. When the level of jank exceeds whatever is offered by the top meta lists more competitive players will gravitate to using the Incarnate rules for an advantage. In Age of Sigmar the Incarnate of Ghur isn’t the only model that is subject to this sort of meta “flavor”. Nagash, Kragnos, and Gotrek all offer unique rules that bend the typical game and create a meta where a large centerpiece model overwhelms the feeling and flavor of an individual faction or subfaction. For non-unique models look at the current plague of sharks that was unleashed by a points drop and the addition of exploding 6s to hit for shooting.

Additionally, the potential for multiple battle packs means that the Incarnate can fill different roles in each battle pack. With a stripped down impact a competitively focused pack could keep the incarnate as a special use case while a more narrative pack could pump up the power. Rules writers have shown that even if the focus of a battlepack (such as spellcasting) they have considered and found ways to allow armies that don’t play well with the fuction to participation (with nullstone enhancements).

Can The Incarnate Be Fixed?

First, I’m going to say that in my opinion the concept of the Incarnate, and the Incarnate of Ghur, is currently broken. When a janky rules interaction allows the model to be more powerful it sees use. Otherwise, it is just kinda there to be picked but not serving a particular purpose. In armies with well costed units it will almost always get beaten out by native units to the faction who can perform a similar anvil role. In low performing armies it doesn’t actually do anything to score primary, secondary, or grand strategy points.  Those sad armies that need an anvil that takes up 25% of the army and doesn’t help you score in Age of Sigmar are extremely rare.

The designers did some extremely smart things in limiting the Incarnate to Bob the Great, as opposed to a unique hero. The Incarnate represents the best type of game design in that it’s a big swing. As long as Games Workshop is able and willing to look at balance quarterly and completely redo warscrolls that don’t work (Kragnos, Pink Horrors) it is better to screw up by trying to make something cool and fixing it later.

Don’t let an Incarnate be part of a 1-drop deployment.

Being able to choose priority has ALWAYS been a key part of Age of Sigmar and this GHB feels like having low drops and controlling how battle tactics flow is extremely important. During the time when the Incarnate could go wild from Rupture many of those lists relied on being a low drop and throwing a wild incarnate into your face turn 1. Determining priority is such an advantage in a GHB with limited automatic first turn priority options. Some armies, like Fyreslayers, require an opponent to deploy on points for a first turn battle tactic. The irony would be that by not allowing an Incarnate to be part of a one drop battalion you could allow it to help with actually scoring primary, secondary, or grand strategy points. Even in the Season of War:Thondia book the benefit for having an Incarnate in a battalion is unification and making it more difficult to go wild.

Picking an Incarnate would represent a sacrifice of first turn priority choice in exchange for a weird set of rules and the power of a future Incarnate (Or the Incarnate of Ghur) that would bring to an army. Currently, most use cases of the Incarnate of Ghur have included low drops to take advantage of the “No Retreat” and inability to die attributes of the model. Another route could be to add a major downside to a wild Incarnate that is mitigated through the use of a special battalion. This presents a list construction choice – lower or a single drop to for first turn priority or mitigation of a significant potential downside to the model.

Allow some Grand Strategy Flavor. 

One of the nice things about the Mega Garagant mercenaries is that outside of destruction each one is restricted to a certain grand alliance. In a similar way, a bound Incarnate could be given a rule, or unlock a battle tactic, for each grand alliance. This could be accomplished at the Incarnate (rules type) or specific warscroll level to provide another balance lever.

Imagine a destruction army with:

Terrifying Presence (Destruction Only): The only thing scarier than running towards battle is running away with an Incarnate rampaging.  The number of friendly Models that Flee are reduced by half within Domination Range while the Incarnate is Bound.

The above example isn’t powerful but it is an example of how the Incarnate can be given some character on the tabletop.

Have Real Penalties for the Incarnate Going Wild.

This is my favorite idea as it solves much of the jank for killing your own hero and reduces the consistency of a wild Incarnate. Smart players, who still control the Incarnate, are able to use the predictability of the Incarnate to get great advantage. Instead, having your bonded unit die should be unsettling at worst and downright terrifying otherwise.  Right now, if Bob the Great tames a huge murder-spirit and dies the rest of his army cheers because Bob had the foresight to get that thing as far away from people as possible. On the other hand, if you’re marching with Bob the Great and he has a stroke why shouldn’t the angry murder-spirit turn around and take out it’s anger on y’all?

Mechanically this could be accomplished by a control roll, introducing templates for random movement, or a mechanic that allows “control” of the incarnate to be determined like an objective, with more models making it “Friendly” when wild for that round. Bob the Great, hanging with his Cities of Sigmar friends has taken control of a force of nature. When Bob is dead shouldn’t the people who tried to kill him attempt to communicate “Yo, we hated that guy too?”. Instead of throwing the Incarnate of Ghur into the front lines it would become a tug of war between two armies (I’m sure lots of playtesting would be needed for balancing) with each side playing hot potato.

Games Workshop, through the narrative battalion and the change to Rupture, has seemed to say “No, a wild Incarnate is a bad thing guys” and should make sure that this is reflected in the rules.

Of all the suggested changes I think making sure a wild Incarnate is a bad thing is the only critical area of improvement. This would clear up a lot of future potential jank that competitive players look for whenever rules change. Games Workshop has been able to make mea culpa’s in the past in regard to fighting or shooting more than twice in a phase with a model.

Final Thoughts

I have a lot of faith that if you’ve come this far with you’re gonna understand that the Incarnate rules currently feel like estates in Europa Universalis 4. Part of a DLC that feels utterly useless and apart from the game. While the current GHB made some attempts to integrate the Incarnate of Ghur (and future Incarnates) with Battle Tactics and Grand Strategies it ended up highlighting the jankyness of the rules. New model types are often subject to all sorts of jank. If you don’t believe me, ask somebody why endless spells are limited to three in a 2000 point list.

I don’t have a particular opinion of what Age of Sigmar should be outside of keeping the double turn and combat/movement/pile-in shenanigans. Having a set of expensively pointed models isn’t offensive and having more Incarnates in the game might prevent from “feeling the same” when it is dominant in the meta. However, what history shows us is that the current rules set only really comes out to play when the deepest jank is available to the player base. Much like Kragnos, I hope that a complete rewrite of the rules is undertaken and until that occurs, the Incarnate is rarely seen in competitive play.