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Savage Orc Units and Characters

by Avian

The Savage Orcs have always been a bit neglected in that they have never had any plastic sets, which has make them less attractive to greenskin players. Who, after all, wants a horde of expensive metal miniatures when they could have a horde of mostly nicer plastic miniatures instead? I also find it a bit interesting that in the Warhammer World, being primitive is basically a good thing; Savage Orcs being more expensive than their more civilised cousins.






Special characters



Savage Orcs basically have the same attributes as normal Orc, plus a few extra.



As if Frenzy did not make your units uncontrollable enough, they get the normal greenskin problem of Animosity tacked on. Not only do they have a 1 in 6 chance of standing still and a 1 in 6 chance of running after the closest enemy unit they can see. On the good side, at least they are a bit quicker these days, and for a unit that is good in combat that is usually a good thing.
A lot of people seem reluctant to have Black Orc characters join their Savage Orc units, for background reasons. While sticking rigorously to a theme is usually an admirable thing, it will help keep your lightly armoured close combat troops moving forward, which you need to be doing. You also get a one in six chance of saving each wound done by the Black Orc when a unit looks like it's about to squabble, though Savage models tend to be more expensive than normal Orcs anyway, so it evens out.



Anything that gets powerful fighting troops into combat is of course a great advantage and this rule should be used for all it is worth. However, as Savage Orcs are more expensive than normal Orcs, it can be very expensive to get a full rank bonus and thus the most out of Waaagh! One solution to this is to take fewer units than you would otherwise have done and/or a lot of cheap support units (i.e. Goblins) to make up for this. Spread some Big Bosses around in your units, make sure your General is leading one of them and getting into combat is a lot easier.


Size Matters

If things are going your way (which they should hopefully do more or less half the time), Savage Orcs should not ever have to take Panic tests at all, thus being double-insured that they don't take them when something nasty happens to a gobbo unit is not all that much of an advantage. The only time the Size Matters rule will do much for Savage Orcs is in those cases where they have lost a combat, run away but not been caught and then managed to rally. Needless to say, it doesn't happen very often.



Frenzy has three distinct components: Firstly, it gives you +1 attack in close combat. For basic grunts with only one attack to begin with, this is obviously good, as it doubles the damage they can do. For more powerful fighters the increase is not as great, but they are obviously better equipped to take advantage of that extra attack. Savage Orc Shamans of both types also receive this bonus, but falling to the temptation of giving them a Magic Weapon (especially the ridiculously overpriced Skull Wand of Kaloth) should probably be avoided. If you really feel you must equip your Shamans with extra weapons, the Sword of Might or Martog's Best Basha are the ones I would recommend that you stick to.
Secondly, Frenzy means that you don't take Fear, Terror or Panic tests. As the greenskin army lacks obvious ways of getting around the problems with enemies that cause Fear or Terror, and can be quite badly plagued by Panic (though Orcs less than Goblins), this is really the main reason I think you should go for Savage Orcs. You can get extra attacks by other means, but not running away because there is a silly little elf with some magic junk that makes him cause Terror nearby is great. Similarly, when your regular Orcs fail their Fear test and refuse to charge some wimpy Skeletons, you will wish for Savage Orcs. It is worth noting here that if you lose the combat to a unit that outnumbers you and causes Fear, you will lose the Frenzy first and then automatically fail the break test (disregarding Insane Courage). Thus even Savage Orcs will have to be wary of being swamped by Undead. Similarly, you can use smaller units of normal Orcs as support for your Savage Orcs. Should the support unit get into trouble you can be sure that this will not bother the main unit.

Thirdly, Frenzy means that you must charge if there is an enemy you can reach and you must pursue / overrun if able to. This is the downside to Frenzy, which all your opponents will try to take advantage of. A very common tactic against frenzied units is to place a cheap bait unit within charge reach of them and then flee when the frenzied unit is forced to charge. The unit will then quite often end up in a position where it gets charged by something nasty, or where it will have problems doing anything useful. Quite a few times have I led frenzied Chaos Knights of Khorne around the table with my Wolf Riders while shooting at them with my Spear Chukkas. The best way I have found of avoiding this is keeping your frenzied units a bit back and use non-frenzied units to partially or completely block the arc of sight of the frenzied unit. This will either mean that your Savage Orcs can avoid charging completely, or they can only charge in the direction you want them to. Typical screen units are gobbo fast cavalry units (cheap and fast, but unreliable) or Snotlings (cheap-ish and reliable, but slow) and they must be used differently. The fast cavalry can be used as a screen in front of units, but because they are prone to failing Animosity tests at the wrong moment, you don't want to do this more than you really need to. Snotlings, because they are slower, can be used to screen Savage Orc infantry provided that you think you will be able to get them out of the way fast enough. Thus the best use of screens is as a way of limiting what your unit can charge. An example of this is shown below, where two units of Goblin fast cavalry makes sure that the Savage Orc infantry will only be able to charge forward and cannot be lured off at an angle. This tactic can also be used to protect Savage Orc Boar Boyz, in which case the fast cavalry should be placed a bit further forward, to take into account the longer charge range of the boars.

As you probably know, Frenzy stops doing anything at all the moment you lose a combat, which makes Savage Orcs somewhat pointless for sacreficial units. Sure, they won't run away on the way to the slaughter, but you end up paying a lot more for them.



Back in the old days of 6th edition, the choppa was really an inferior version of the hand weapon, useful only in a few cases. It only gave a Strength bonus when you charged and did not give the extra armour save when combined with a shield. Since Orc Boyz in the old days were charged more often than they are now (due to the altered Animosity rule), this meant that quite often the choppa did nothing. Not so in this version, where choppas are excellent weapons and especially so for Savage Orcs, with their extra attack. While not being something you want your characters to be stuck with, orcish infantry benefit a lot from what is now obviously a well-crafted weapon. It is a matter of taste whether you like to have your Savage Orc infantry equipped with choppas and shields or with two choppas, but either is a useful combo.



Savage Orc units cannot get regular armour (strangely enough, Savage Orc Big Bosses and Warbosses can buy light armour in this edition) and instead all Savage Orcs start with warpaint, which gives them an unimpressive Ward save. Now, warpaint on its own is better than light armour against attacks with Strength 4 and higher, and there are quite a few of those, which is a nice little advantage. Against anything with lower Strength, warpaint alone is identical to light armour. However, when combined with other armour, warpaint is less good. A model with warpaint and a shield has slightly less chance of saving against Strength 3 attacks than one with light armour and shield. Against Strength 4 attacks the chance of saving is the same and against anything with Strength 5 or more, warpaint is better. Essentially, warpaint is worse than light armour if your modified armour save is better than 6+, equal if it is 6+ and better than light armour if the Strength of the attack is so high that you don't get any armour save. Thus Savage Orc Boar Boyz are less well protected than regular Orc Boar Boyz, but not excessively so, against low-Strength attacks.
New as of this edition is the option for Savage Orc fighter characters to buy light armour, presumably though to be some kind of thick furs, leather armour or something like that. I must admit that it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Perhaps the idea was to allow Savage Orc Warbosses to purchase the Armour of Gork? In any case, the option to boost the save of Savage Orcs is generally worth taking, as they tend to be a bit more costly than regular Orcs and you want to protect that investment. Warpaint is also good for Shamans, as it can help protect these otherwise quite fragile magic users, though that is no reason to get them involved in any unnecessary combats.


Boar mounts

Being faster is a bit of a mixed blessing for Savage Orcs in that they can get places and smash heads quicker, but it also makes it easier for opponents to lure them into traps. One of the major improvements to Savage Orcs in this edition is that due to the altered Frenzy rule, the boars also get +1 attack while the rider is frenzied. With two Strength 5 attacks when charging, this makes the savage boar the most hard-hitting steed in the game (not counting ridden monsters and so on). The trick is then to get the mounted Savage Orc to charge something worthwhile, and not just chase after skirmishers and fast cavalry the entire game, never getting into combat.



Savage Orc characters are now just the same as normal Orcs, except with Frenzy and warpaint tagged on. I find this a bit dull and rather preferred the good old days of fifth edition, where there was more difference between them - adding a Savage Shaman to a Savage unit gave them a 5+ Ward save instead of a 6+ one, for example. Now the fighter characters can even get light armour.


Savage Orc Warboss

With five Strength 5 attacks basic, the Savage Warboss is quite nasty even with just a simple magic weapon, such as the Akk'rit Axe. Although he comes with warpaint, this isn't really enough protection if someone makes an effort to kill him, and so some form of Talisman is probably a good choice. Note also that he can now get light armour, which means that he can choose the Armour of Gork if he wants to, and a Savage Warboss can now potentially be better protected than a normal Orc Warboss.
On foot: The cheapest and least risky option. It will leave your Warboss a bit unprotected if you don't give him some gear to make him more survivable, but a simple great axe and either the Best Boss 'At or the Amulet of Protectyness gives you a lot of killing power for a reasonable cost. To that you can add other items as you prefer, such as the 'Itty Ring.
Mounted on a boar: Due to the risk of running out of a unit, I would only recommend the boar for a Warboss that intends to run around with the Boar Boyz, and even then it can be somewhat risky. Given a choice, I would probably not go for this option and have the Warboss walk around on foot instead.
Mounted in a Boar Chariot: On the positive side, you can have a chariot with D6 extra move when the Waaagh! is called, something you cannot get in any other way except with Black Orc characters, and you get a very hard-hitting single model. On the downside you have an expensive model that is quite easy to lure astray and I generally find that my General does better in a unit than on his own.
Mounted on a Wyvern: Could be a lot of fun; could be a very easy way of getting your Warboss killed. As he is monstrously expensive and has a long charge range, you will probably find him somewhat hard to use effectively. But then you could of course just give him Porko's Pigstikka and the Best Boss' 'At and charge head-on into the enemy army. Starting the battle somewhere without line of sight to any enemies (behind terrain, facing away from the enemy army) is recommended as you can later plonk him down where he has a good choice of targets to charge and doesn't have to go charge something worthless in turn 1.


Savage Orc Great Shaman

A quite expensive spellcaster that is subject to frenzy. I think it's an overstatement calling him 'Great'. Do not be fooled into thinking that he is some kind of fighter, he isn't and buying the Skull Wand for him is not a good way of spending your points. You might of course ask yourself why you should take the Great Shaman, beyond thematic reasons. The answer is that there is no other reason. Back in the old days Savage Shamans gave unique benefits that weighed up for his frenzy, or they had access to unique Savage Orc-only magic items, but that is no longer the case. It is flat out stupid to take this guy.
On foot: Probably the best option and not only because it is the cheapest. Putting your Great Shaman in a decently nasty unit of Savage Orcs should go some way to extend his life expectancy. If you are feeling confident that there is nothing to shoot him or bait him, you can also try to have him go around on his own. Of course, the very safest place is in a unit that is hidden behind something decently solid, so that he doesn't have line of sight to anything and nothing has line of sight to him. You will of course have to forgo casting the two spells that require line of sight, but the lesser Shamans in your army can cast them instead and the Great Shaman can concentrate on the high-power ones.
Mounted on a boar: If it hadn't been for the fact that half of the spells available to the Shaman either require him to see the enemy, or are risky for a model on his own, a boar would not have been such a bad idea for a frenzied spellcaster, since you could place him on his own outside a unit, facing in a direction where no enemies could appear. As it is, mounting him is generally far too risky and it costs quite a lot. Technically you could have a Great Shaman join a unit of Savage Orc Boar Boyz, to aim them with spells and so on (he actually fights better than a Savage Orc Big 'Un!), but such a venture seems just a bit too risky for my liking.
Mounted in a Boar Chariot: The main reason to mount characters on chariots is to get another chariot that does not count towards the number of Special choices in your army. As mounting a frenzied Great Shaman in a chariot is very risky, this is not something a sane person should do and you should instead mount other characters in chariots.
Mounted on a Wyvern: There may be ideas even more stupid than this one out there, but probably not all that many. A large flying monster with Frenzy and a guy on top who cannot actually fight is a huge liability in any army.


Savage Orc Big Boss

For five points more than a normal Orc Big Boss, you get +1 attack (until you lose the combat) and a 6+ Ward save. Okay, so you have to charge if able to, but as you are probably including him in a unit of Savage Orcs, he would have had to do this even if he was a normal Orc, so it's not a loss. You probably don't want this guy to lead a unit of normal Orc Boyz, but in a Savage list he is a great buy. His Ward save is a bit worthless on its own, though, so you should give him some sort of protective gear to go with it. As for weaponry, it is hard to beat a great weapon, especially since he already has four attacks, though the cheap Magic Weapons are worthwhile as well.
On foot: As with any other Savage character, the default option is probably to put him on foot, whereas any other Orc fighter character should be on a boar as the default option. The basic great weapon is good and can be combined with either the Best Boss 'At or the Amulet of Protectyness plus the 'Itty Ring or Guzzla's Battle Brew. With other characters, getting Frenzy might not be a very good thing, but Savage Orcs are frenzied anyway and thus you get a re-roll to hit on a 3+, which goes well with your four WS5, Strength 6 attacks.
Mounted on a boar: Though boars are useful and highly cost-effective beasts, you don't really want to place this guy anywhere other than in a unit of Savage Boar Boyz, where he adds a good punch armed with the Akk'rit Axe or Porko's Pigstikka. Savage Boar Boyz can usually win a combat on their own against most foes, but can have trouble winning by enough to break the enemy if they have good Leadership and a Big Boss can remedy that.
Mounted in a Boar Chariot: If you want a Savage Orc in a chariot, then this is the right guy for it. He's not too expensive, fights well and the extra pair of boar attacks and the extra crew attack is a nice bonus. Most of the time, placing a character in a chariot is less effective than having a character mounted on a wolf / boar and a chariot running alongside him, and you only take the option to get an extra chariot without spending a Special choice on it, but with a Savage Orc you actually get something greater than the sum of its parts, as the character makes the mount frenzied. Naturally, a chariot with Frenzy is somewhat risky, so you will need to back it up well.


Savage Orc Battle Standard Bearer

The main problem with this guy is that if you want a Magic Standard (such as that excellent Spirit-totem), you will either end up with a guy with very little protection, or who has to charge anything within 14". You could put him on a boar in a unit of Savage Boar Boyz, but in this case the Spirit-totem is next to pointless. You might also ask yourself what an army that desperately wants to avoid losing combats in the first place, needs a re-roll of break tests for, because if that ability is needed then something has certainly gone wrong. There is some truth in that, but remember also that a BSB adds another standard to the unit he is with and that extra +1 CR helps you win combats. Thus I would treat this guy in much the same way as I treat my Ogre BSB - the re-roll of break tests might not be needed, but another standard is always useful, then gear him up for close combat.
On foot: As with most other Savage characters, this should be the default option. Give him a decent protective item and a cheap magic weapon and you are set to go. Taking a Magic Standard is risky, as you will be limited to a 6+ armour save to go with your 6+ Ward save.
Mounted on a boar: There isn't really a lot of reason to putting a Savage BSB on a boar. The only relatively risk-free place to put him is in a unit of Savage Boar Boyz, which gives you the possibility of having two standard, the War Banner and the Banner of Butchery in the same unit, where even the basic troopers have four attacks (two from each rider and two from each steed). If you can actually get the unit into combat with something worthwhile - as opposed to chasing cheap support units and getting shot up - then they can rack up a very impressive combat score.
Mounted in a Boar Chariot: As with any other greenskin breed, riding chariots is mostly a job for Big Bosses not carrying the Battle Standard. As with the basic Savage Big Boss, you get a very powerful chariot rider, but the risk involved is considerably greater, with the extra 100 VPs your opponent can get from capturing the Battle Standard.
More thoughts can be found in my generic tactics article on Battle Standard Bearers.


Savage Orc Shaman

When it comes to magic defence, greenskins mainly have three ways of going about it. The first is using Mork's Spirit-totem, either by giving it to a BSB, placing him on a boar and sticking him in a decently large unit of infantry (quite risky for Savage Orcs) or by taking a unit of Black Orcs or Orc Big 'Uns on foot and giving the Spirit-totem to them (impossible for Savage Orcs, as their Big 'Un infantry cannot have a Magic Standard). The second way is taking the Staff of Sneaky Stealin' on a level 1 Shaman. As this item is Goblins only, this is also not an option for Savage Orcs. Thus, if you want to base your army around Savage Orcs, you will generally have to get magic defence by taking one or two Savage Shamans, with one or more Dispel Scrolls.
As with any Savage Orc character that is not a pure fighter, you are paying more for him than for the equivalent Orc, for what is essentially a worse character. The extra attack and Ward save really does not make up for having to charge if within reach and if you are not concered with theme, you will take a normal Orc Shaman instead. It sould be reasonably obvious that Savage Orc Shamans are not good fighters, but if you really do feel the need to tool one up for combat, then at least forget about the Skull Wand of Kaloth and go with Martog's Best Basha, the Amulet of Protectyness and Waaagh! Paint instead. I'm not saying it's a good idea, but it is a the least bad in a selection of bad ideas.
On foot: To prevent your fragile spellcasters from charging too far off in pursuit of elusive or nasty opponents, it is recommended to leave them on foot. If you feel confident that your opponent does not have enough firepower or mage-hunting units to threaten your Shaman, you can have him walk around on his own. This is what you ideally want - you don't have to worry about squabbling and not being able to cast spells for a turn, and you get the most out of the 360 degree arc of sight. If going solo seems too risky, then placing your Shaman in a unit - probably a Savage Orc unit - is the way to go. This is not without risks of course, as you want your Savage Orc units to be involved in close combat, but you are not fielding frenzied wizards because it's a good idea, are you?
Mounted on a boar: The only suitable place for a Savage Orc Shaman on a boar is in a unit of Savage Orc Boar Boyz, and that is not a place for a low-level wizard anyway.



Hopefully the designers will see fit to add more Savage Orc units when we get a redo of the army book next time.


Savage Orcs

For 1 point more than an Orc Boy with an additional choppa, you get a basic Savage Orc with warpaint instead of light armour (a bit better), immunity to Psychology (quite a bit better) and who must charge and pursue / overrun if able to (can be a problem). In my opinion, this is quite a decent deal and on top of this, you can even take extra weapons and/or a shield, if you want to. If you ask me, the reason we don't see Savage Orc infantry more often is that the models look so bad and cost so much money. As stated above, Savage Orcs need to be supported well, or they have a good chance of being led by the nose away from where you want them to go.
Recommended unit size is anything up to, say, 25 and the more extra equipment you take, the lower you want to keep the unit size, to get the most out of the weapons without paying too much for rear rankers that will never get to use them.
Big 'Uns: Much more expensive in this edition and cannot apparently take a magic standard, for no reason I can understand. As the basic Savage Orc can already fight quite well, I would suggest that you do not take the Big 'Uns and instead spend the points you save on some support units for your Savages instead.
Additional choppa: Many consider this to be the default choice of equipment, possibly because the latest version of the models come with this.
Spear: With normal Orc Boyz, the spear isn't really a very interesting option, but with Savage Orcs it gives the option of 4 attacks per model in the front rank when the unit is charged, which is very impressive for a nine-point model.
Bow: What to say? For almost twice the cost of a normal Arrer Boy, you get an Arrer Boy with Frenzy. Is this a good thing? No, it isn't. Due to Frenzy, your archers will be conducting forced charges so often that they will rarely get a chance to fire their bows, something they are not very good at to being with. As with the option to not have spears on Savage Boar Boyz, I suspect that this option was kept in to please players with older models.
Shield: Most greenskin players have pondered the question of whether to take additional hand weapons or just shields on their Orc Boyz. Well, with Savage Orcs you can effectively get both at the same time. While the option to take a shield seems to be often overlooked, I think this is quite decent and keeps the models fairly cheap.
Command options: For once, the Boss option is especially tempting, with three Strength 5 attacks in the first round of combat, or four if the unit is given additional choppas. A musician is always a good buy and especially for a unit that gains a lot if they can avoid losing a combat by one point, just because it was a draw and the other side had a musician. A standard is somewhat dubious, at least for smaller units, who are more at a risk of losing combat due to being charged by something nasty. For bigger units, the standard is a pretty safe buy and should be taken. Sadly, no type of Savage Orc infantry can take a Magic Standard.


Savage Orc Boar Boyz

While the Savage Orc infantry don't really give you more hitting power per point than normal Orc infantry, the Savage cavalry does. For a few points more than a normal Orc Boar Boy, you get a model that fights twice as well. The downside to all of this is that with a charge range of 14", they are quite vulnerable to baiting, so you will have to work twice as hard to keep them from being lured away from the units they want to smash.
Recommended unit size is around 6 to 7 models, which is typically the most you will be able to get into contact with the average enemy unit. They are so expensive that buying models to place in rear ranks is typically a waste of points, though one or two extra models to soak up the odd spell or cannon shot you can't prevent is good to have.
Big 'Uns: With this upgrade you get a greenskin model that costs as much as a basic Chaos Knight and which can actually fight as well as his boar. On the whole, though, the upgrade is generally more expensive than it is worth and spending the points on a couple of extra models instead is probably a better option.
Spear: The previous generation of Savage Orc Boar Boy models included some models with hand weapons. I suspect that the option not to have spears on this unit has mainly been kept in to please the owners of these models. For everyone else spears should be considered to be compulsory.
Shield: As one of the main weaknesses of this unit is that it is rather easy to kill with missile fire, the option to improve their armour save for a relatively low cost should always be taken.
Command options: As with the Savage infantry Boss, the extra attacks makes the champion very, very tempting. Five Strength 5 attacks is about as good as it gets for any champion in the game and is nasty enough to threaten quite a few characters. As with the infantry, the musician can make the difference between losing the combat by 1 point and losing Frenzy, and getting a draw. Well worth it for the relatively low points cost. A standard is not interesting if you tend to just take a minimal unit for some hard-hitting support, but if you are making an effort to get the most out of the unit, it is well worth having. A War Banner is always useful and can help should something go wrong and you end up being charge by a comparable enemy unit.


Special characters

Savage Orcs finally get a special character they can call their own, and do they get a fighter? No, they get a liability!


Wurrzag Ud Ura Zahubu

Do you want a frenzied level 4 Shaman? Not really. Do you want a frenzied level 4 Shaman mounted on a boar? Most likely not. Do you want a frenzied level 4 Shaman that can turn your other Shamans into Squigs? Absolutely not. I don't know what they were thinking (or smoking) when they wrote this, but this falls into the same category as Greasus Goldtooth - a special character completely out of character with his army. A Savage Orc special character should be a nasty fighter, not some spellcaster with more disadvantages than the christmas dinner party of the Disadvantaged Goblins Society.
The Good: Never miscasts. +1 to cast spells.
The Bad: About 100 pts overcosted. Frenzy with a 14" range. Turns other shamans into Squigs. Spell that can turn enemy models into Squigs only works in base contact. Has two Bound spells, but can only use one at a time. As with all the old special characters he takes up an extra Hero choice.
The Dull: Ability to halve the attacks of enemy mounts and the rule on him not being the General are essentially pointless and will rarely crop up.


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