Today, I have learned a lot about Beastmen, having had a look through their book and been quite enthused by the contents. They’re very squashy, but they’re also fast, potentially quite hitty, and have access to a lot of the components of a successful Warhammer army (at least, they have Harpies and a skirmishing unit with bows and war machine attacks hidden in other units, as well as the Ambush capacity to bring stuff on from board edges not their own).
However, I have also learned a lot about Warriors of Chaos, namely why I don’t play them any more. It’s just such a headache sifting out the things I like about that army, the things I have ideas for models for and can’t quite squash into the one army list, the things that actually work well together, the things that are just stupid gimmicks that I can’t put down. There’s a reason that book gives me nothing but Gamer Angst, and it’s not just that the army is missing some very important bits: it’s that I can’t decide which of the bits that are left I actually want to use, or how I want to use them.
See, the thing about Warriors of Chaos, the key to success that I’ve gleaned over the fourteen years that I’ve played them, on and off (that’s actually as long as they’ve existed as an army in their own right, and also longer than I remember…), is that, like Floyd Pinkerton’s manager, they only come through in waves.
My first Chaos Warrior army never managed better than a draw in three years, my Warriors of Chaos were a bitty disaster, a mess of Marks and tactics that couldn’t go anywhere, but my Hordes of Chaos army did quite well for itself, because I’d got the hang of sending them in in waves. Wave one was fast, reasonably hitty but also reasonably cheap stuff like Marauder Horsemen and Warhounds, units that could take control of the board and either drive the enemy back or bait them into coming forwards; wave two, meanwhile, was the slower stuff, the Warriors and Chariots that actually did the damage and won the games, and connected with the enemy once the screen had done its job. Everything had the Mark of Slaanesh, partly to manage the problem of psychology on an army that got shot at a lot and had Ld8 at best to rely on, and partly because Slaanesh magic was and is great at messing with enemy lines, drawing units out of position or keeping them in one that was to my advantage. Good times.
That’s one of the things I want in a Chaos army.
I am also, however, unable to put down the idea of Tzeentch: partly because the big bird of madness is my favourite Chaos God, partly because Pandaemonium is a very good spell that does wonders for the Warriors of Chaos army, helping them break enemies in combat and discouraging enemy spellcasting, and partly because that curious little Mark of his has a lot of interesting interactions that could go a long way in 8th edition (like the ward save from using a hand weapon and shield, or the access to magic levels on fighty characters who can get Ward saves). Some of the things that attract me are gimmicks, like the Book of Secrets and Banner of Wrath on a Tzeentch Chosen unit: sure, that’s two extra magic missiles that can be reliably cast on one die, but they’ll be dispelled soon as blinking and the Chosen unit itself runs to nearly four hundred points! But I can’t put them down and get them out of my head, for some reason.
So that’s another thing.
The third thing is Trolls. I’ve seen the Throgg army with the two or three units of four Trolls and the big vomiting blubberhead himself at the helm – those Trolls take some shifting, and are likely to notch up some good Eye of the Gods bonuses (in fact, they get to roll on the table more often than characters do, provided the enemy are doing me the courtesy of shooting at them). However, they’re not an army in their own right, meaning they need to combine arms with one of the other archetypes; but they cost a lot of points, taking away things that are attractive about the other archetypes, things that make those other builds workable. They also have this tendency to snarl up the tactical side of things: okay, so if they’re in the first wave, they’re too tough to crumple and let the second wave through, but if they’re in the second wave, they’re not getting shot and racking up Eye of the Gods bonuses from Regenerating.
Yet another thing.
This is why Warriors give me Gamer Angst. Choosing the exact flavour of fail is far more challenging than it needs to be. I’ve been sitting here making my tired maths-brain come up with Chaos lists, and I can come up with a mess of Tzeentch gimmicks that doesn’t have any kind of target saturation or ability to force choices, a bunch of lumbering Trolls that look cool and take punishment but block out whatever else is in the list, or a vague idea concerning Slaanesh that misses out on the Shiny New 8th Edition stuff that made me take an interest in Chaos again.
Also, the more I think about it, the more I realise that I’m too invested in invisible rules (like my insistence that there be a character with a given Mark if there are units with a given Mark, and my preference for mono-god lists over lists that embrace the full – if limited – range of possibilities the book provides) to succeed with the visible ones. I take a limited army and the first thing I do is slap more limits on it.
I’ve seen sense. No Warriors of Chaos for me. Can’t even think about it, as I start introducing too many goals, too many standards for the project to live up to, and get all muddleheaded as a result.
So. I’m going to get some sleep, and in the morning I’ll do something sensible like write a Beastman list.