Orcs & Goblins Magic Items
Personally, magic items are one of the main reasons I take characters, instead of simply buying more troops. Thus I usually spend my characters entire magic items quotas and give any unit that can take a magic standard one of the 25-point ones. As far as quality goes, the Orcs & Goblins list follows the common pattern of about one third good ones, another third okay ones and the last third rubbish ones.
Types of magic items
When evaluating weapons, one thing should be clear to you: In Warhammer, Strength beats pretty much anything else. Thus +1 Strength is usually better than +1 Attack, +1 to hit or anything like that. For some reason GW seems not to have understood this and so weapons that boost Strength are often also very cheap. Use this to your advantage.
Battleaxe of the Last Waaagh!
I will give the army book writers credit for one thing: They did manage to come up with a 100-point magic weapon I actually wanted to try out. There is just something about saying to your opponent "My guy has seven attacks at Strength 8." that I find very pleasing. Of course, the first time I used it I rolled six misses and only one hit when I needed 3s or more. Bah! Realistically, though, it is overpriced by quite a bit and has the disadvantage that you cannot buy any other magic items. The combination of the Akk'rit Axe and the Kickin' Boots will most of the time do pretty much the same amount of damage for only a little more than half the cost of the Battleaxe and you do not need a big unit to put the Warboss in either.
This is one of those items you take once in a while for the fun of it, but not more often than that. Taking it on anything other than a Black Orc Warboss with heavy armour, a shield and a boar in a nice, big unit of Orc Boyz is not really recommended.
Warboss Ironclaw's Waaagh! Cleava
Even more overpriced than the Battleaxe and tends to not bring out the same "shock and awe" reaction in the opponent. Not a recommended weapon. Why the Empire book has the same weapon at the same price when it is limited to a guy with fewer Attacks and less Weapon Skill is a mystery to me.
I'm not a great fan of weapons that give a variable bonus and which come with a rather hefty downside (or, to be precise, three downsides). In these days, anyone wandering around on his own is a far easier target for enemy firepower than he has ever been before, and being forced to charge when he has a 360 degree charge arc can easily mean he ends up going in the wrong direction. And should you be able to get him into a good combat, you'll need to roll decently well for his extra attacks for it to really be worth it. Sounds just a bit too difficult for my taste.
Should you decide to take a character with the Bloodaxe after all, you are faced with a difficult decision: Should you give it to a Big Boss who is reasonably expendable but who will be unable to get much of an armour save and is therefore extra vulnerable to being shot or zapped? Or should you give it to a Warboss, who is much more expensive, but who can spend 50 extra points on protective gear and thus hopefully avoid being shot to death. Giving it to a Savage Big Boss is probably the best idea, as he comes with a (not overly impressive) Ward save as standard for only 5 points more than a normal Orc Big Boss and gives you no disadvantage.
Some people have suggested you give the bearer of this weapon Maad's Map as well and get a "psycho killer death scout" sort of character. This is highly risky and taking a Warboss with this combo below 3,000 points means that your general will probably start the battle on the other side of the table, far away from his troops, which is generally not a good thing. Giving this combo to a Great Shaman is even less of a good idea.
Shaga's Screaming Sword
With a little luck you get the same Strength and Attack bonus from this weapon as from the Battleaxe, for half the cost. With more realistic levels of good fortune you will end up with +2 Strength and +2 Attacks, which is not bad at all for the price and makes your Warboss as nasty as he has a reasonable need to be. With a bit of bad luck, though, your get only a +1 bonus to either stat, or the Screaming Sword may end up as an expensive pointy stick. The Screaming Sword is particularly nice on Warbosses on Wyverns, since they have more freedom in where to attack and can therefore get more out of this item. The major downside to this item is that as you chew your way through the enemy army, your sword gets worse. In one case my Warboss had to fight the last two combat rounds in a battle with no bonus as he had killed all the characters in the Undead army.
The Screaming Sword is not really recommended on a Big Boss, as it eats up his entire magic items quota and leaves no points for other interesting items, though I have had fun with a Savage Big Boss in a chariot with this item and nothing else.
Note that situations such as the one in the White Dwarf battle report between the greenskins and Lizardmen, when the Orc Warboss ended up in range of 6 enemy characters only happen when the battle has been rigged to give the Orcs & Goblins player the greatest advantage.
And in case you were wondering, enemy champions are not characters and hence do not count.
Skull Wand of Kaloth
Some people assume that because this item is limited to Shamans only it is useful. They are wrong. Pretty much anything expensive enough to use a 40-point magic weapon on tends to have far too good Leadership for you to have a decent chance of killing him. The Skull Wand simply is not an effective weapon for its cost - had it been 20 points instead it would have been reasonable. It all boils down to this: Any kind of Shaman has far too low Weapon Skill and Attacks to be a decent fighter no matter which weapon you give him, so if you really feel you must equip him for combat, go with a cheap weapon (such as the Best Basha) instead. If you want a decent fighter character, take a Big Boss or a Warboss.
And throwing the Kickin' Boots into the combo just makes a silly idea more expensive.
This weapon is less effective these days that it was in the old days (when it was okay, but nothing extraordinary). Previously the number of bonus attacks you got when charging was equal to the number of ranks the enemy unit had (max. 3) and not its rank bonus. Therefore, whereas you would in 6th edition have been guaranteed a minimum of 1 extra Attack, you can now risk not getting any at all. This can happen because the enemy unit is of a kind that does not get rank bonuses (i.e. skirmishers or fast cavalry), because they are too few to get a rank bonus, or because you have just charged them in the flank and removed their rank bonus. If you give this weapon to a Warboss on a Wyvern and charge an enemy unit in the flank, you have only yourself to blame for not getting any bonus attacks. Not really recommended.
This item is however somewhat interesting on a Goblin character riding alone on a Gigantic Spider or a Great Cave Squig, since they only have a Unit Strength of 4 and so will not remove any rank bonuses. Sadly it is a bit on the expensive side for a Big Boss, the most likely candidate for riding around on a small monster.
Ulag's Akk'rit Axe
My favourite magic weapon in the new army book. Not only does it give a nice bonus for 10 points less than in the previous list, it now also gives +1 Strength in the first round of combat, and combats often do not last longer than one turn. Very, very nice for a very low price. It combines well with either the Iron Gnashas or the Kickin' Boots, though personally I am more fond of other Enchanted Items for my Warboss. One of two no-brainer weapons in the list.
This item is a bit strange. Under normal conditions, poisoned attacks is all you get and that isn't very impressive for the cost. If you should manage to attack an enemy unit in the flank (not an easy thing to do) you get a Strength bonus, which is nice, but on the downside the value of poison goes down as your Strength goes up (as you are more likely to Wound anyway). Thus, when charging a unit in the flank, the Backstabber's Blade is not noticeably better than the much cheaper Sword of Might, which is generally much better than the Backstabber's Blade when attacking something in the front. Should you manage to attack something in the rear then it starts getting useful, but when you have managed a rear attack the enemy unit is often screwed anyway. Not a useful item.
Wollopa's One Hit Wunda
A hugely amusing item - I just love kitting out a Goblin Big Boss on a wolf with this item. He starts off in a unit of Orc Boyz and at the right moment he charges out and delivers three Strength 10 attacks to anything within 18". Cheap thrills! Giving him the Brimstone Bauble as well is also good for a few laughs - more than once the Big Boss has charge something, done a bit of damage and then been killed in return, which has triggered the Bauble and done even more damage. The downside is that a gobbo Big Boss is only WS4 and thus tends to not hit all that often. A gobbo Warboss has a greater chance of hitting, but then on such an important character you are more likely to want something that has an effect more than just once. Also very nice for smashing apart chariots, since they are subject to that idiotic rule which means that they are destroyed if wounded by a weapon with Strength 7 or more.
Martog's Best Basha
Another little no-brainer option. I though that the Sword of Might was good in 6th edition when you paid 20 pts for it, but this little item is both cheaper and better. Excellent value for the points, especially for WS 4 and 5 characters. Also worth considering is the Best Basha combined with the Effigy of Mork on a Black Orc Battle Standard Bearer (on a boar, of course). With a WS of 7 and enemies being -1 to hit him, models with WS 3 or less only hit him on 6s and pretty much everyone else hits him on a 5+.
This one unfortunately falls into the category of things that are not only less cost-effective than a great weapon (a rather large category which most magic weapons fall into), but who sadly tend to be less effective as well. A weapon that gave +1 Strength with an additional -2 save modifier would have been much more useful, because with a basic Strength of 4, Goblin characters tend to struggle to do much damage unless they get some kind of Strength boost.
This falls into the same category as the Skewerer - a great weapon (or any of the cheap magic weapons that boost your Strength) tends to be much better.
It would appear that magic armour is out this season for greenskins, though to be honest the much larger 6th edition selection of magic armour contained about the same number of useful ones (i.e. one), so it's not a biggie. The fact that Orc characters can now boost their armour save by quite a bit by riding boars with much greater safety makes it even less of a loss. I rarely select anything from this section.
Armour of Gork
Not all that bad, though I would have preferred it to be a bit cheaper. At the current price I don't really find it very interesting, though that is largely because my opponents tend not to bother with attacking my fighter characters overly much, reasoning that it is far more effective to just beat up the rank and file greenskins, gain a very high combat result bonus, break my unit and kill the character by running him (along with his whole unit) down. Therefore I don't generally bother with 50-point protective items, reckoning that about 30 points gets me a decent one instead. And +1 Toughness does not help you if your character is hit by a cannonball and you fail the Look Out, Sir! roll, something a Ward save might.
Sadly, most things that are nasty enough to feel that attacking a competent fighting character is an attractive option, are not really all that worried about the occasional Strength 5 attack. This is one downside to it. The other downside is that it does not actually protect your character any better than a normal shield does, and I personally require that my magical items work better than the mundane versions. Thus I refuse to buy weapons that are not actually good at killing people (the old Orcs & Goblins book was notorious for having quite a few of those) or armour that isn't actually good at preventing damage.
This section is a bit dull and contains items that vary on the theme of making your character more survivable. Frankly I would have liked there to be some items in this section that also protected the unit the character was with, but that is not the case.
Effigy of Mork
Probably overpriced by about 10 points. For models that would normally hit you on a 4+, this item is effectively as good as a 5+ Ward, but only in close combat. Thus it is generally worse than the Best Boss 'At, yet it costs more and should generally be avoided. It is, however, not too bad for characters with very high WS, meaning those who are either Black Orcs or carry the Best Basha (or both). Any WS 7 character is only hit on a 5+ by WS 3 opponents and in those cases the Effigy of Mork is the equivalent of a 4+ Ward save in close combat. Not too shabby in those cases, but lower-WS characters should avoid it.
Warboss Umm's Best Boss 'At
One quite nice item from 6th edition that didn't really change (the name changed slightly). It is hard to go wrong with a 5+ Ward save and this is one of the items I use most often to protect my characters, both fighters and Battle Standard Bearers.
Amulet of Protectyness
Risky, but potentially very good for characters who cannot get a good save anyway. Sadly, though, most models that are going to hit you will have a Strength high enough to mostly cleave through their own armour anyway. If you have the option, I would attempt to get a good armour save the normal way and take the Best Boss 'At instead. Also problematic in that it does not say whether or not any special rules the attacker has also applies to you. For example:
If the attacker has a Ward save that only works against non-magical attacks and hits you with a magical attack, will you get the Ward save?
If the attacker has a save with a re-roll, will you get the re-roll?
If the attack has a Ward save that works until a save is failed and he hasn't failed it yet, will you get it until you fail it, or until he fails it?
If the attacker has a different (or no) Ward save depending on the Strength of the attack, will your Ward save depend on the Strength of his attack?
And so on. Most of the time it is not problematic, but if you do use this item you should discuss with your opponent first how you think it should work, for example if you want to treat it as you getting the save the opponent would get if he hit himself (i.e. all special rules apply).
Hoping for an official FAQ for this one...
Collar of Zorga
A bit pointless, to be honest, but it is nearly free. I would never take it over any of the other Talismans, and to be honest I would probably spend the points on another goblin or something instead, but not completely idiotic. Don't take it to get protection from Dragons or other monstrous steeds - it will leave you with no Ward save against the monster's rider and he is often more dangerous.
There is actually only one item in this category I do not consider to be overpriced or overly risky to use and that is the Staff of Stealin', which is rather dull. It appears that the army book writer had a set goal of removing all the good and fun items from the previous list, instead of making them more reasonable. In any case, the lack of decent Arcane items is a major reason why so many greenskin players choose to go all magic defensive.
Idol of Mork
When I pay 50 points for a magic item, I do not want something that may easily end up being a disadvantage. It is important to note that you only get the bonus dice from Orc units in combat, whereas any fleeing unit, regardless of what type of greenskin it is, removes dice from your power pool. For the cost, I would have expected it to give extra dice for units in combat, without the chance of losing dice. Considerably overpriced, if you ask me. It would have been better if this was a special rule for the army (instead of the current rule which adds or subtracts one dice from your magic pools).
Staff of Sneaky Stealin'
Six times as useful as it was in the previous edition (when it could only be used for one turn), for twice the price. This is one of the more useful items, though it is a bit dull and encourages even more a defensive approach to the magic phase. Personally I frequently take this on a level 2 Shamans, giving my other Shaman(s) more offensive items. If I am not taking any other Shamans, then this item will frequently be seen on a level 1 instead.
Staff of Baduum
Very common on my Great Shamans, but not seen on the lesser ones, as the level 4s tend to cast twice as many spells as the level 2s and therefore get much more out of it. While using this item, Orc Great Shamans will also attempt to cast 'Eadbutt and Bash 'em Ladz with only two dice instead of the normal three, which saves more dice for other spells. Also combines well with Power Stones.
If you ask me, this item merely encourages taking unnecessary risks with your Shamans. As I make an effort to keep my Shamans out of combat where they have a needlessly high risk of being splatted, I don't ever use this item.
Note also that the first two spells of the Big Waaagh! cannot be cast when the caster is in combat - the first because magic missiles specifically cannot be cast when the wizard is in combat and the second because it does not specify that it can target models in combat and when the Shaman is in combat that is generally all he can see.
These need to be used with some caution or you are just increasing the risk of your Shaman blowing up for no real benefit. They should only ever be used when any roll other than a 1 would mean that you reach the casting value, they should only be used when it looks like the spell might do something useful and when your opponent cannot easily dispel the spell without leaving himself open to your other spells. Munching down a 'shroom for each spell you cast is just asking for an exploded cranium.
The highlight of the greenskin magic items, the Enchanted Items section contains no items that are outright useless, though I do consider some of them to be a bit overpriced.
Horn of Urgok
Realistically, what this item is going to do is to make your opponent spend 1-2 Dispel Dice per turn to stop it from working, if you are lucky. The chance of getting it off consistently when your opponent thinks it might have an effect is quite slim and thus it should instead be seen as a way of boosting your own magic phase by putting more pressure on your opponent's store of Dispel Dice.
And even when it gets through, the effect is not very great. All those annoying Fear and Terror tests have already been taken that turn and thus it mainly has an effect on Panic caused in your own Magic and Shooting phase and break and Panic tests in your own Close Combat phase. Not terribly exciting and some players will just ignore it. The chance of backfire encourages you to put it on a character with the highest available Toughness and the cost encourages you to take it on a Lord, so it is most suitable for an Orc Lord of some sort. It also stacks well with the Best Boss 'At.
The Pipes of Doom
An idiotic item that replaces actual tactics with dice rolling. I refuse to purchase such stupid items and really hope many more of their sort in future army books. In fact, I detest it so much that I refuse to comment on whether or not I find it effective.
For a Warboss, this is only slightly more expensive than a normal boar and gives a nice bonus. For a Big Boss this is overly expensive and not recommended. The major downside to this item is firstly that it eats up one third of the Warboss' magic items quota and secondly that it prevents him from taking any other Enchanted Item. It is not too bad in itself, but I generally have other things I would rather take (such as the Horn of Urgok).
Warboss Imbad's Iron Gnashas
Killing Blow is not a particularly good ability and a price of 30 points is considerably more than it is worth, if you ask. If the ability comes included with something else (such as the Gnoblar Scraplauncher, which has Killing Blow built in), then I don't mind, but it over all a pretty useless special rule. It is only halfway decent against characters and even then you need a lot of luck for it to do anything. For the same price I would rather suggest you buy the Kickin' Boots, who are better against pretty much anything. Stacks well with the Akk'rit Axe on a character with a good number of Attacks, such as a Savage Orc Warboss.
Bigged's Kickin' Boots
A bit too expensive for my taste, but at least it combines with other items. Not too bad for a character with the Akk'rit Axe or a basic great weapon.
A bit on the expensive side, to be honest and tends to leave the bearer a bit exposed to enemy firepower. On a couple of occasions I have given it to a Night Goblin Big Boss with a great weapon and not much more (you could give him a shield, but the mission he goes on tends to be a bit suicidal and so I prefer to keep him cheap) and set him up close to enemy war machines. He is actually quite difficult to target with most war machines (not Organ Guns, though) as he is such a small target and he is agile enough to hide from a lot of missile units as well. He can then hop from war machine to war machine, happily slaughtering the crew until his luck runs out. Being a Night Goblin, he is extra effective against Dwarfs.
And in case you were wondering, the item only works on the character himself, it does not grant the Scout ability to a friendly unit - the character cannot join a unit until he is deployed and when that time comes, all units he could have joined have already been placed on the table.
Considering that ward saves are quite rare in most armies, this little item is mostly useful against Bretonnia, Wood Elves, Chaos players with a lot of Daemons and people you know will often take Ward saves for their characters. Could have done with being a bit cheaper, considering its limited usefulness.
Very entertaining on a lone, suicidal Goblin Big Boss on a wolf (mine also carries the One Hit Wunda). It is probably not an especially cost-effective combo all in all, but it can be very fun to use.
Taking it on a character in a unit (as opposed to a character running around on his own) is plain stupid and will often be a disadvantage for you.
Nibbla's 'Itty Ring
Now cheaper and more powerful than in 6th edition, though with a chance of backfiring. If you want a decent magic phase, then you are probably going to need this little item, along with the Horn. Not a good item to give to your basic low-level Shaman, as it has a decent chance of causing one Wound on him, which gives away quite a few victory points to your opponent. Much better on a Lord, as they can afford to lose a Wound without giving away any VPs. If you really want to give it to a Hero, either give it to an Orc Big Boss of some type (Touhgness 5) or use it sparingly.
And yes, you do have to roll to see if it backfires each time you use it, regardless of whether it is dispelled or not.
Mad Cap Mushrooms
If it wasn't for the fact that when I put my Shamans in units with Fanatics they tend to squabble or run away in panic far too often, I would probably take this item more often - there are so many nasty tricks you can pull with Fanatics nowadays and the Mad Cap Mushrooms aid in that.
Note that you can also re-roll the number of hits when you get a high number, for example when you release the Fanatics through another of your own units.
Guzzla's Battle Brew
Fun on a Big Boss on a Great Cave Squig (the Squig must already charge any enemy unit it can reach, so Frenzy has no downside for it), as both Hatred and Frenzy boosts the combat abilities of the Squig as well as the rider in this edition. Stupidity can be a bit of a problem, so do not give this item to an important character.
Another no-brainer option, especially now that a Black Orc BSB that carries it can safely ride around on a boar and have a 3+ armour save. Most effective when carried by a BSB in a decently large unit (preferably Orc Boyz, but Goblin infantry can also work), less so on Big 'Uns, as they are rather overpriced.
Remember that if the BSB's unit gets shot up, he can move over to another unit and use their rank bonus to generate Dispel dice instead.
Rowdy Grott's Big Red Raggedy Banner
Not bad as such, but it leaves you with a very fragile BSB with a quite high price on his head, and that in a time when Goblin characters are more limited than ever. I have taken this banner quite regularly in my all-Goblin list, sticking the BSB safely in a unit behind the main battle line and though he has occasionally prevented important units from running away, I am not sure if I would call the Big Red Raggedy Banner compulsory.
Bad Moon on a Stick
Ten points cheaper than in the previous edition, but even more useless (you cannot give it to a Night Goblin BSB and stick him in a unit of Orcs to make them Stubborn). As with the Big Red Raggedy Banner you must give it to a BSB (and Night Goblin ones are even more weedy then normal Goblin BSBs), but as the Bad Moon on a Stick only has an effect when the bearer's unit is in combat, you end up with a very obvious target with limited life expectancy. Sticking him in Skarsnik's unit (which of course has nets) seems to be the only semi-decent use for this item. Would have been much better if it could be given to a unit.
Note that if you put your Night Goblin general in the unit that has this banner, he will not make all friendly units within 12" Stubborn. Only units joined by Stubborn characters become Stubborn themselves, not those around.
The Spider Banner
If this had been something like 35 points and could be taken by a Goblin unit instead of needing a Battle Standard Bearer to carry it, it would have been useful. As it is, it is far too expensive to give a unit of gobbos poisoned attacks.
Gork's Waaagh! Banner
Anything that increases a unit's move is potentially extremely useful and this banner is quite nice in this regard, suddenly turning a unit with unimpressive movement into one that is capable of moving quite a bit further. A bit limited in that you roll after you have declared the charge, but still useful.
Nogg's Banner of Butchery
Somewhat less useful in this edition now that all units who got something useful out of it back in the previous edition tend to be overly expensive now. I used to love this banner, but I eventually came to the conclusion that it generally worked best against softer enemy units which my unit would generally beat convincingly even without the Banner of Butchery. Against harder opponents which my unit struggled against, the Banner of Butchery did not do a whole lot. Therefore I mainly swapped to the War Banner, which worked against all foes and was not one use only.
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