The first Battletome for the forces of Destruction has arrived and, like any good Orruk, we must ponder the deep question.. Is it any good?
The front cover has a nice ‘I am going to hit it in the face!’ type of feel to it, appropriate for any force of Orruks.
This is an important book, in the Age of Sigmar scheme of things – this is the first real stab GW is making at turning us away from the Orc and on to the Orruk. They are accompanying this Battletome with an audio drama and a novel that both centre on Orruks (they have also popped up in a recent e-short).
So, while an Orc is an Ork is an Orruk, whether he is in the Old World, the 41st Millennium or the Mortal Realms, are we going to be seeing anything new?
The book kicks off with the usual background section, exploring what the Ironjawz are and their relationship to the Age of Sigmar. In a nutshells, the Ironjawz are Orcs-plus, super-Black Orcs, if you will – in fact, the Black Orcs (now renamed Ardboyz) are the little guys in these tribes. Your average Ironjaw is equivalent to a Stormcast and, in fact, has the same Save, Wounds and Bravery, but more attacks and better weaponry (they have Rend as standard).
So, these guys are nasty. And, like the Orcs before them, they live for fighting. Violence is their whole reason for living – they are not evil, more like a force of nature, like a storm or river (and this is very much how they are approached in the fiction).
Their two-headed god, Gorkamorka, is portrayed as a very real thing – not an abstract deity, as in the Old World, but a being that actually walks the Realms. As a side note here, I think that, at some point, we will see the model and Gorkamorka will be a playable piece. We already have Arachaon, who is basically a demigod, and the whole thing was kicked off with Nagash who is the God of Death in all but name. There also seem to be strong hints that Alarielle will be getting a model (I am thinking later this year), and if we also consider Tyrion, Malerion and, why not, Sigmar as possible models, then Gorkamorka seems a logical choice.
I have a suspicion that Age of Sigmar will become a game where the gods do indeed walk the battlefield…
While Orruks are everywhere, some attention is paid to their presence within Ghur, the Realm of Beasts – however, do not expect any great insights to the realm here, it is more of passing references. I would expect to see greater detail in one of the Realmgate Wars books down the road.
he next section looks at how the Ironjawz gather together, and here we see something of the old ‘wackier’ Orc making an appearance – there is a passage of how mobs of Ironjawz are organised into groups of five, as that is how high most Orruks can count. Really clever Warbosses have figured out they can have larger forces if they put two hands together, and there are legends of barefoot Ironjawz who had truly massive forces.
It is a nice little nod to the early days of Orcs in both Fantasy Battle and 40k.
As an aside, though, the overall tone is not jokey – the humour is there but it is not central. When you combine this Battletome with what is happening in the recent fiction, the Orruks become a lot deeper and more interesting. For example, they are not a faceless enemy to be beaten back by civilised forces. In one of the novels, the Stor,mcasts are working actively to fight alongside the Orruks and form a permanent alliance between Sigmar and Gorkamorka. It also goes into some depth about how truly alien the Orruks are – they are not savage humans in green masks by any means, but a very different race with its own ideas on how to approach things. These ideas do not make sense to a human (such as the reader) but they have an internal consistency that does make sense.
Full marks to GW on that side of things.
As with other Battletomes, there is a section dedicated to variant paint schemes, crammed full of little titbits of related background about what each tribe is doing. This will be of value to anyone who does not like the very bright yellow and red tribes that have been placed at the forefront of the Ironjawz releases, and while I am really not sold on the orange tribe, I think I will go with either the black, bare metal or white/cream colour schemes for my own Ironjawz.
The next section, following the previous Battletome format, is a look at each component/unit of the Ironjawz, and the roles they fulfil in the tribe. In a nutshell, Ardboyz are at the bottom (and they are frightening enough – this is not your standard ‘horde’ army!), Brutes go in the middle alongside the Gore-Grunta riders, Warbosses are in charge, and the great Gordrakk sits above all. Weirdnob Shamans and Warchanters are below the Warbosses but otherwise sit outside the tribal structure (perhaps literally in the case of the Shamans, as they still have the potential to blast the heads off nearby Orruks due to their tenuous control of magic).
Gordrakk, incidentally, could be fairly described as a fantasy Ghazghkull in this Battletome. However, I would urge you again to check out the recent fiction, as he has far more dimensions beyond being ‘Orruk Commanding Because Big is Best’.
The ‘hobby’ section follows, showcasing the various colour variations.
Then we come to the Battleplans – fast becoming my favourite part of the Battletomes, and there are three of them in this one.
The first features a conflict in Shyish, pitting the Ironjawz against a vampire called Aylessa who commands her lands from a large Barge-Keep. What is interesting here is that Aylessa is not only a member of one of Neferata’s Darkmaiden Broods, she is also the blood sister of Cyssandra, the vampire lady who appeared in one of the Battleplans in the Fyreslayers book. It is good to see links like this being forged in the narrative, and it looks like the background of Age of Sigmar is beginning to reinforce itself.
The next Battleplan, aside from having a great piece of artwork featuring Skinks getting blatted by Gore-Gruntas, features another face familiar to Battletome readers – Starmaster Zectoka, the Slann who appeared to duff up first the Bloodbound and then Pestilens in the Seraphon Battletome.
The final Battleplan, Dead Cunning, pits Gordrakk himself against the Stormcasts, and showcases the idea that Orruks are much, much more than just dumb brutes. This Battleplan has a (very simple) dice game played before the battle starts, the results of which will define how many Cunnin’ Tricks the Orruk player can manifest during the fight. These cover things such as a Weirdnob Apocalypse or a Surprise Attack…
Finally, the Warscrolls. I won’t go through these individually, as they all appeared in White Dwarf, have appeared in all the rumours posts on various forums, and are free to download from GW’s web site right now.
What has not been seen are the Battalion Warscrolls unique to this book. These are all based around the concept of ‘fists’, bands of 3-5 units that (more or less) work together.
Brutefist: 3-5 units of Brutes, can charge in the hero phase and dishes out mortal wounds as it does so.
Gorefist: 3-5 units of Gore-Gruntas, gives a free 15″ move in the first turn of a battle, meaning these Ironjawz are going to be right up in your opponent’s face from turn one!
Ardfist: A Warchanter leading 3-5 units of Ardboys. On the face of it, the least attractive Battalion as it is made up of ‘puny’ Ardboys. However, so long as the Warchanter lives, you get to recycle destroyed units, giving a new meaning to the term Green Tide.
Weirdfist: 3-5 units of any Ironjawz, led by a Weirdnob Shaman. I think this is going to be one of the ‘standard’ Battalions that people take for the Ironjawz, as it is basically ‘an army of Ironjawz’ that will likely be collected without any additional thought to Battalion composition – in other words, if you are collecting Ironjawz, you will have all the models you need for this Battalion anyway. In return, the Shaman can have his spells seriously pumped up (as if that would be needed for Foot of Gork!).
Ironfist: This is the other Battalion that people will fill out just by collecting various Ironjawz – any 3-5 Ironjawz units will fulfil the requirements. In turn, the benefit is mild enough, with every unit able to move D6″ in the hero phase.
Brawl: In the army section of the book, we were told that 5 Fists make a Brawl – and that is exactly what this Battalion is, any five of the other Battalions with a Warchanter, Shaman and Warboss added for good measure. I do have to say, I have never seen one of these ‘combination’ Battalions fielded in Age of Sigmar. Ever. However, it is nice to know they are there, just in case you ever go really silly with an army.
This is a good Battletome, certainly on par with the Pestilens one which many people seem to think is/was the best so far. It does a good job of introducing the Ironjawz specifically and the Orruks in general to the Mortal Realms, with equal parts nods to the old flavour of Orcs and explorations of how Orruks fit into Age of Sigmar, all without making them faceless hordes.
That last point is an important one. The Ironjawz are not a horde army by any description, despite being Orruks. Remember, their basic Brute warrior can clock a Stormcast Liberator in a fairly convincing manner – thus, it is not a stretch to think that a ‘typical’ Ironjawz force could be a similar size to a ‘typical’ Stormcast force.
And if you were always tickled by the idea of greenskinz but did not want to saddle yourself with painting a hundred models, that is just perfect. Take two boxes of Brutes, a box of Ardboys, a box of Gore-Gruntas, and add a character or two to taste, and you will have a perfectly viable, fluffy force of Ironjawz for the game. That will not cost an excessive amount and you will qualify for one, possibly two, Battalion Warscrolls to boot!
In short, I would define Battletome: Ironjawz as a good, solid entry in the Age of Sigmar line.
Oh, and if you have any interest in Orruks at all, you really should check out the recent fiction. It really is very good and does a great job of defining how Orruks ‘work’ in the Mortal Realms.