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Raising a Waaagh!

by Avian

An introductory article meant for players new to the orc army, though it might be useful for more experienced players as well.

Note that this article was written for 6th edition

 

So, my young padawan, you say you want go and raise your own Waaagh!, so-

Err, Boss, wot's a "padawan"?

It means you're a grot.

Right, Boss.

Don't interupt me all of the time, I was talking. Now, as you know I've been leading the Waaagh! for many summers and I know how it's done. Now, I don't win all of the time, but I win a lot of the time and when I don't win I make sure I give the enemy a good stomping anyway. That's what being an orc is all about.

I know, Boss. Dat's wot ya keep tellin me.

 

BUILDING BLOCKS

Right, when you start your own Waaagh! one way of doing it is in managable blocks of approximately 500 points at a time. The first block you'll probably not use a lot because 500 points is a bit too small for a proper battle, but it's a nice start and should give you a good idea of what theme and colourscheme you want. Got that?

I fink so, Boss. I got a couple ovv dem starter sets you get in da box. Iz dat any good?

No.

No?

The boar chariot is quite good, but otherwise what you get is rather crappy. What you want in each block is this: First you want what I call a combat unit which should cost around 200 points, secondly you want a couple of support units at 150 to 200 points in total and thirdly you want maybe one character costing around 100 to 150 points. Do you remember me explaining you the difference betweeen a combat unit and a support unit?

Yes, Boss. A combat unit's got a rank bonues, a support unit doesn't.

That's broadly true, some support units get a rank bonus and some combat units - such as trolls and giants - don't but generally that's the distinction. If you put it another way a combat unit can front charge most enemy units on its own, while a support unit will do badly if it tries to do the same. By that logic combat units are Orc Boyz, Savage Orc Boyz, Common Goblins, Night Goblins, armoured Wolf Riders, Black Orcs, Orc Boar Boyz and Savage Orc Boyz.

Wot about Squig Herds, Boss? Dey get ranks.

YOU WILL KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT ABOUT SQUIG HERDS! IF I NEVER SEE ANOTHER SQUIG HERD I'LL BE OVERJOYED! GOT THAT?

Right, Boss. Sorry, Boss.

Now that's settled let me continue. Most other units are support units, but type is not the only thing that makes you a combat unit. Unit size is important. What's the first rule of orcish army building?

"Everything counts in large numbers."

And the second rule?

"If it's not in large numbers it doesn't count."

 

COMBAT UNITS

Good. It depends a little on the size of the units your opponent will be taking and how much shooting he's got, but generally you will be aiming for a Unit Strength of 30 for a combat unit. That means you can take some casualties on the way across the field, lose some lads in combat and still have a full rank bonus and hopefully outnumbering also. With some especially 'ard units - Savage Orcs, Black Orcs and Boar Boyz - you can go a bit lower, say 25, but 30 should be the standard for nearly all your units.

Wot about gobbos? Should dey be more?

Gobbos are not orcs, far from it. Repeat to me the third rule of orcish army building.

"Never send a goblin to do an orc's job - send at least two or three."

That's a very good rule, but instead of enormous units two units of 30 gobbos are often better and two gobbo units can usually be expected to do the same as one orc unit of the same size. There are of course several reasons for having big units besides combat bonuses, firstly it makes the unit a lot less likely to have to take a Panic check due to missile fire or magic, secondly it means that the unit will be a sure provider of Waaagh! energy for nearby shamans, and thirdly it scares the opponent.

Okay, so I sell da boyz with two choppas and the arrers to some grot. Wot do I get instead?

That depends on what you want and what theme you have for your army. All the Core units I mentioned are good as a start for a Waaagh! If you want to be a traditionalist then a couple of boxes of Orc Warriors is a good start and will leave you with bitz to convert your first character. Savage Orcs are just as good, but take a little training to use well against a skilled opponent, and come in metal. As said you need more gobbos if you want to go that path, but a goblin army can be just as deadly as an orc one. Armoured Wolf Riders is what you want for the start of a highly mobile greenskin army and wolf riders are always good anyway.

 

EQUIPMENT

I went da standard way an got a couple of boxes of Orcs, dat got me 30 boyz and a handful left over. What do I equip dem wiv?

For basic boyz there are two combos that are both good, and none of them involve additional hand weapons. Why someone thought that this would make a good unit I will never know, but it's rubbish. The two good combos are spear and shield and choppa and shield. The first is better, but more expensive, and is therefore what I recommend for Big 'Uns when you get to that point, and the second lets you build large units at a very reasonable cost. Both will give you a very reasonable 5+ save to go with your Toughness of 4. Whichever you choose is up to you and in both cases you get what you pay for.

But spears, Boss? I thought two choppas would be good for an agressive race like we orcs iz?

Two hand weapons are only better the first round when you charge. At all other times a spear is better. When you only have Initiative 2 you want to be sure that you get some attacks back, and with only a 6+ save it's very easy to lose those two attacks per model. With spears you are almost certainly guaranteed a good number of attacks back, and you get the better save. In addition, with only an average move of 4 and Animosity orcs are a lot more likely to be charged than to charge, so spears come out on top for that reason too. Considering the cost choppas and shields are also better. Leave the two hand weapons to elves.

Choppas and shields for me, denn. I want a lot of models quickly. Boss, banner and banger for the unit?

Ah, we're getting to the fourth golden rule. "Always a musician; boss if you feel like it; banner when you hit 200 points." Any greenskin unit that can have it should always get a musician, the bonus in combat and the +1 to rally checks is easily worth the few extra points. Banners are different; while the combat bonus is good, cheap and fragile units are prone to losing them, often doubling the points lost if the unit is destroyed. As a rule only units costing around 200 points should have a banner. That includes any fighting characters that will be joining the unit, but not things such as fanatics. Bosses are a matter of taste. They don't cost much and they are good fr adding casualties - particularly Orc Bosses - but if the enemy directs a couple of attacks his way he dies quite easily. If you ask me any unit with a banner should also have a Boss, and those without it get it if spare points are plentiful.

Got it. 30 orcs with choppas, light armour and shield; Boss, standard bearer and musician. Only 208 points. Dat's great, Boss. Wot next?

 

SUPPORT UNITS

You might want to make the unit 29 to make room for a character, but that's a small matter. Next is support units. Now, I said that support units as a rule don't get a rank bonus, but miminmum-sized infantry units with next to no upgrades can also be a support unit. They will be more vulnerable to missile fire, though.

But that means dat anyfink can be a support unit. Wot should I get?

Nearly any support unit is good, that one of the great things about greenskins. The two I nearly always take, though, are wolf riders and spear chukkas. Wolf riders are great, not only are the cheap and Core, they can be customised to many different roles and come in a plastic set to boot. For the basic loadout two units of five equipped with spears, shields and a musician have a wide range of uses, from performink flank moves to hunting down war machines and missile troops to stopping march moves. They are quite fragile and have a tendency to run off at the sight of anything even remotely scary, so keep them cheap and try to protect them a bit. Spear Chukkas are also wonderful, at a low low 35 points per model they are the bane of heavy cavalry. Use them together with wolf riders to set up failed charges that give you a shot at the flank of cavalry units. Spear Chukkas are also so cheap that they can be placed more or less unprotected out on the flanks hoping for a good shot and forcing the enemy to go out of their way to get a few measly Victory points. Used in this way I rarely bother with bullies. Out on the flank there are few causes for Panic and the use for a little extra help in combat is minimal.

Righty-o. Two units of five wolf riders and two spear chukkas. So I have roughly a hundred points left fer my first character. An Orc Big Boss, right?

 

CHARACTERS

To keep a theme your first character should really be of the same type as the combat unit. Later you can add characters that match races you already have in your army, but to keep the theme you should not include a character if you don't have a combat unit of the same type. An orc army gets a lot of it's combat resolution from its rank and file models, so in that sense it is less dependant on characters than races such as elves, but the boost in Leadership and the concentrated fighting power of a Big Boss is good. Shamans are good fun and are a useful addition to your Waagh!, but can probably wait until the third block you get. Now, you have a little less than a hundred points left out of your initial 500 to spend on your first character, but it's not really important if you go a little over the top, as I said you will not be using the first 500 all that much and you can always drop a model or so to get below the limit. So when it comes to character types anything is good. When it comes to equipment I have other views. Do you remember the fourth golden rule?

Err, I don't fink ya've ever told me da fifth rule, Boss.

No? Well, here it is, then. "First maximise the damage done with each hit; then increase the number of hits." You know what that means?

Umm...Roll well to wound?

It means that you first boost your strength and then, when you wound on a 2+ with no save you can concentrate on getting more hits. Since most troopers in the game have T3 and a 5+ save that's not very hard and any Black Orc character will wound on 2+ with no save with just his basic choppa. Not everyone are so whimpy, though. For the cost a Great Axe is a very good buy and all my characters that can have one will do so. Those who can not, either becasue they carry Battle Standards or Ironskin Shields, get other Strength-boosting weaponry. Concerning protection the natural toughness of orc characters combined with something like the Dead 'Ard Armour gives you a very resilient character for just a point less than 100. There are a lot of other options, though. The Sword of Might, Enchanted Shield, Nobbla's 'Elmet, Warboss Umm's Best Big Boss's 'At, Magical Warpaint and Talisman of Protection are all seen on my heroes from time to time. Enchanted Items are more rare.

Fanks, Boss. Dat got my first block all sorted out. Wot next?

 

THE SECOND BLOCK

Your second block should usually be structured in much the same way as the first. You add a second combat unit, two units of gobbos, for example, a couple of more support units and maybe a second character. Another character is not really needed at this stage, you will usually do just fine without one, but a Battle Standard bearer can be very useful for an orc horde.

 

GOBLINS

I want some gobbos to boss around. Three boxes should then give me two units of 30. Should I take Common or Night gobbos.

Both have their advantages. Common gobbos are more reliable, but Night gobbos have the option for a lot of fun stuff and get +1 Initiative and Hatred of Dwarfs. Personally I'm not too fond of fanatics, so I tend to take more Common gobbos. One thing you can do if you can't decide is to buy two boxes of one type and one of the other, take the extra heads you get in each box and mix in some bodies and legs to create one unit of each type. To keep the theme you'd take both units of the same type, but not many care much about this.

I want some fanatics, so I'll get a couple of units of Night gobbos. What about equipment?

Gobbos should be equipped in much the same way as orcs. Either spears and shields or hand weapons and shields. If you use common gobbos you can also buy them light armour, giving them an okay armour save of 4+ in combat and making them almost as resilient as orcs for half the price. This requires a bit of converting as you do not get enough hand weapons in the box, but hopefully you know somebody who can trade you some weapons. The option for short bows is not really worth it, +1 pt per model to lose your 5+ armour save in combat in exchange for a weak ranged attack is not really a good deal. As I said before gobbos should get a musician, possibly a boss but rarely a standard bearer. If you add a gobbo Big Boss to the unit a banner may be worthwhile but otherwise I'd leave the rag at home.

And nets? They sound fun.

Nets are okay. After adding command models I usually fill up the rest of the front rank with netters and leave it at that. The chance of a gobbo unit actually getting into two combats during a battle is rather low, so any reloads are typically a waste of points.

Fanatics! Dese loonies sound awesome and I've heard so many great stories about them. Are they true?

Fanatics do well against heavy cavalry. Against other foes they will do about as much damage to your own army and anyonw who has fought against fanatics will develop tactics against them. If you really want them I'd recommend around four spread out between at least two units to make it more difficult for the enemy to release them before you are ready. Put them in front of the unit you want to splat, advance the unit straight ahead in your first turn and hope for the best. Apart from that do not be afraid of mvoing though your own fanatics if you get the chance to pull off a vital charge. If you made your units good and big as I told you to the damage will be minimal.

Got it. Fanatics some ovv da time, denn. Wot's a good choice fer more support troops? I thought maybe some artillery, but what to choose? Rock Lobbers or Doom Divers?

 

ROCK LOBBERS AND DOOM DIVERS

That would depend on what you're up against. Rock lobbers are great against massed infantry, while doom divers are best against heavy cavalry. Both are good for splatting heavy infantry such as elite elves, dwarfs or chaos warriors and against medium sized units they are about as accurate. Going by the golden rules if you want some artillery get a lot of it and if it was for a tournament or a league I'd probably get one of each. If you can't afford both then decide depending on your opposition; rock lobbers for big units, doom divers for small. Both are on the expensive side, so get a bully for each.

An' where do I put 'em, Boss? Don't want the enemy to run all over dem an' I still want to be able to shoot.

There are several schools of thought on the subject. Some want to protect them as much as possible and are willing to put them in a bad position, just so they won't be taken out easily. Personally I expect to be in combat by turn three, so I want my artillery in a position where they can get at least a couple of shots off at the high priority targets. Usually that means that I leave several positions where they can be set up, but wait to place the artillery until late in the deployment. You can also deploy the artillery early and hope your opponent will be sufficiently scared of it to deploy valuable units in bad positions, but more often than not that means his best anti-artillery units get placed somewhere nearby. Hills are good vantage points, but of course your opponent knows this as well. Another option is to put the artillery on the front line and get a couple of shots off before the line of sight gets blocked by melees. I tend to avoid this, because it leaves a weak spot in your battleline where fast enemy units can get trhough. With orcs is often quite hard to get around their battleline, so the artillery will be rather more safe behind the line than on it.

Err...

Right, it basically boils down to this. If you have a good hill to put it on then do so and do your best to stop enemy units getting around your line. If there is no such position then put it behind the first line units with enough gaps between units to get good line of sight for a couple of turns. Often there won't be a lot of enemy units you can target after that, anyway.

And wot makes a good target?

Heavy cavalry is a weak point for orcs, so that would be my first priority. If you get those sorted out you can go on to target the enemy elite infantry. Often light elite units, such as Witch Elves also make good targets for what I call "ground artillery".

"Ground artillery"? Wot's dat, denn?

 

CHARIOTS

Orc - and especially Goblin chariots - can do a lot of damage, but are rather vulnerable to enemy shooting. Therefore I prefer to get them stuck in right away to make sure they do something before they expire. My Wolf chariots tend to get sent on suicidal ramming missions on turn 2 against any light infantry unit or war machines deployed too close to the front line. Hellblasters are a favoured targets, but two chariots working as a team can put a serious dent in most enemy units. The intent is to put the pressure on the enemy by forcing him to react to my fast units while my infantry advances at a more leisurely pace. Wolf chariots should get every upgrade except the extra wolf, an option really only put there to satify us old timers who assembled our chariots back in those times when extra animals were a must. 7 points to boost 3 S3 attacks to 4 S4 attacks is a bargain and I always take it.

But chariots aren't very fast when not charging. How do you make sure dey don't get picked on by faster units?

If a wolf chariot will be charged by anything heavier than a unit of five skinks: flee. If you hold it will only lose combat and flee, letting the enemy advance and spreading panic amongst your units. By voluntarily fleeing you will hopefully leave the enmy stranded in a bad position, few units will have to take Panic tests next turn and there is always the chance that it will rally.
Letting them work together with wolf rider units is a different option. Placing a unit of wolf riders, a wolf chariot and a spear chukka together on a flank will often make it very difficult for enemy units to get through that way. They can work together to set up failed charges, possibilites for flank charges and enfilading shots with the spear chukka. Often when the chariot charges the Wolf Riders will charge in as well, safe in the knowledge that not many enemies will be able to strike back at them. On one memorable occasion a unit of five wolf riders and a wolf chariots broke and ran down a big unit of boar boyz with a big boss worth several times their own cost. They were all flattened by enemy fanatics moments later, but that's life in the light cavalry. Live fast - die spread. Chariots aren't really the best thing to take on enemy heavy cavalry with, but if you have nothing else don't be afraid to use them.

And boar chariots? Dey aren't as fast as wolf chariots.

Correct, and therefore I tend to treat my boar chariots a little differently. Instead of teaming them up with fast cavalry I send them into combat together with the orcish infantry. Regular Orc Boyz aren't the best unit for generating wast ammounts of damage, so I throw a boar chariot in with them when they charge to add to the death toll and give me a greater chance of running down the enemy unit, should it break and flee. On it's own a boar chariot is a bit too slow and can't fight a protracted combat, so it goes in to support other units. Always remember that it too is releatively cheap and should be treated as expendable. You can get the extra crewman if you want to, but I wouldn't consider it a mandatory option.

Characters can ride chariots, is dat a good idea or should I put them somewhere else?

The main benefit of putting a character in a chariot is that it will then have a Unit Strength of 5, enough to remove rank bonuses and get a flank bonus if you can get a charge into the flank of an enemy unit. The downsides are many; it gives the character worse mobility, it makes him an easier target and his Leadership could be used better with a unit. A Big Boss with Porko's Pigstikka and the Enchanted Shield in a boar chariot makes a quite potent unit, but in smaller battles I prefer to have my characters elsewhere.

Well, dat's more or less sorted out, then. A combat unit - well, two half ones - and a couple of support units. Time for another character?

 

SHAMANS

While you can have up to three characters in a 1000 point army I don't recommend it as it gives you a bit too few troops, and at low points horde armies do quite well. There is usually little need to include a second character at this point, you might just as well go for more troops. If you want another character you can of course go for another fighting Big Boss to lead your other combat unit and boost its leadership and deal out some damage in combat, or you can get a Battle Standard, though at this size he won't be all that needed. Or you might take a completely different path and buy a shaman.

I wanna blow up stuff! Blowing up stuff is fun!

Well, the magic system of the two previous editions was more fun, but having a shaman to throw some Waaagh! energy about is still entertaining. Out of the four available types of shamans I suggest you drop the idea of a savage orc shaman unless you are making a savage orc army. With a tendency to run off and get themselves involved in combats they are more frustrating than it is usually worth. They were dead good back in the old days, though. The other three are pretty equal. Costing more or less the same which one you want really depends on the theme of your army. An Orc shaman does have superior stats, most noteably his Toughness of 4 and a Leadership of 7. The Night Goblin has his magic mushroom that comes in handy every now and then, but suffers from a Leadership of only 5, which means that he will run away a lot if something scary happens close by. The Common Goblin is average, and also the cheapest one. Item-wise a Common Goblin can carry the overpriced Staff of Sneaky Stealin', while the Night Goblin can take the Mad Cap Mushrooms, if you like taking plenty of Fanatics. Personally I often go for an orc shaman and a slightly cheaper common goblin.

Right, I'll go for a Common Goblin and hope he won't get targeted too much. Should he be upgraded to level 2?

A level 1 can only use two of the three dice you get per turn, if you want to be able to actually cast magic yourself you had better either upgrade him, give him some items that lets you sling more spells enemywards, or both. If you just want a minimum of protection against the occasional enemy wizard then a dispel scroll and nothing more will do. If you are more worried then two scrolls will dampen the worst for a couple of turns and by then you should be in combat, which limits the number of spells that can be cast at you. If you want some defence and still be able to cast a bit then a level 2 with a Dispel scroll and some offensive magic item will be the thing for you. With 25 points to play with the Dangly Wotnotz, Double Doin' Doo-Dahs and the 'Itty Ring are all useful items. This will, however, cost you around a seventh of your army.

 

THE THIRD BLOCK

I've played some battles, Boss, but I feel dat my army needs a bit more punch in close combat. Chariots iz well an' good and da boyz keep gettin' me da outnummerin' bonus, but dey just ain't kicking as much puny humie butt as I'd 'oped. I wuz finkin' 'bout some savages.

 

SAVAGE ORCS

Savage orcs are not used as much these days, which is a shame, because they used to be very characterful and fun. The problem is that currently they are about as effective for their points as regular boyz, but while regular boyz come in a nice plastic set, the savages come as stupid looking, expensive metal models. Difficult to convert to different weapon options too. If only we could get another plastic set. In any case Savage Orcs work well together with Wolf Riders.

Wulfies? Why?

One of the basic tactics against frenzied units is to use fast cavalry or other manoeuvrable units to lure the frenzied unit into charging, and then flee as a charge reaction, drawing the frenzied unit away from the battle. If you have Wolf Riders close by then they can declare a charge first; if the enemy unit flees the savages are free to move on their own. If they stay you are almost certain to remove the enemy unit as a threat from that point on. Wolf Riders can also block charges against the savages, who have the disadvantage that since they are frenzied they cannot flee from a charge. The wulfies stand in the way and direct the enemy unit where you want it.

So simple dat even a gobbo might get it right. Eh, Boss? Wot equipment options iz good?

Warpaint is always worth it if you ask me. Choppas is you want to keep the unit semi-cheap. Spears give you four attacks per base in the front rank when you are not charging, and as you have probably experienced orcs tend to not get the charge. Two choppas gives you three attacks per base in the front rank when you charge, but with the low Initiative of the orcs the number of attacks will go down rather quickly. Shields when you expect to be facing mainly S3 attacks.

Seems like spears is da orcy weapon ovv choice again, Boss.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, grunts with low initiative do very well with spears. Now, since the Savage Orcs will hopefully be Immune to Psychology for most of the battle you don't need to worry about Panic tests from enemy fire, since they do more damage in combat you are less dependant on ranks and outnumbering, and since they are rather expensive, both in points and on the wallet you won't be able to afford as many. You can therefore probably get away with smaller units that you would have used with regular boyz, say around 25.

Err, convertin' da boyz ta spears z too difficult, Boss. I fink I'll just go with two choppas and warpaint. I can't afford all dat many, so I just bought a command group and five bliztas ta give me a unit of eighteen which I'll deploy six wide. That works out to 190 points.

 

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