Friday, February 3, 2023

Why You Should Collect and Play: Beasts of Chaos

Do you hear the siren call of the bestial wild? Then the Beasts of Chaos might be for you! These true children of Chaos have long been a staple of the Warhammer universe, and in my opinion are one of the coolest looking armies. With a new battletome, updated lore, new rules, and a brand new Beastlord model, now is the perfect time to jump in. I even have a special guest contributor today in the form of the one and only Eat Bray Love to show off his amazing army and talk a bit about what makes the models so cool!

First off, thank you to Games Workshop for giving me early access to the new battletome. The Beasts of Chaos have been one of my favorite armies since the 6th edition book came out. I've come close to doing an army of them a few times, but one of the biggest things that's held me back was the model count. Luckily, that's been addressed in this newest Battletome. They have a super unique and thematic way to play as well, and some killer background lore. So in place of a traditional review of the book, I'm instead going to explore the faction as a whole, and why you should collect and play it! For the rest of this article I'm going to break it down into the lore, the rules, and the models.

The Lore

For a quick and dirty general overview of the faction, the Beasts of Chaos are any and all monstrous creatures touched by the gods, with the main groups being the Brayherd, Warherd, Thunderscorn, and assorted monsters and gribblies. The Brayherd are your beastmen, which are typically a beastial lower half, with the torso and arms of a human and the head of a beast. The most common variety of these are goat-like in nature, though it mentions that beastmen can be any combination of man and animal, and some just have waving tentacles and pseudopods for limbs.

Warherds are the larger, and more aggressive cousins of the beastmen. They're your bullgors, Ghorgons, Cygors, and Doombulls. Beyond just being larger, they have an insatiable hunger for flesh. It basically describes them as being unstoppable juggernauts of ravenous violence. The Thunderscorn are the Dragon Ogors and Shaggoths, and they inhabit the high places of the realms, coming down from the mountaintops to destroys all around them. Lastly are the other monsters of Chaos, such as the Chimeras, Hounds, and Cockatrices drawn to the armies of the Beasts of Chaos.

The Beasts of Chaos consider themselves the true children of Chaos. They don't worship the gods at all, but instead embrace the ethos of it. They wish to see everlasting anarchy, and true anarchy can have no gods controlling them. They even see the demons of Chaos as lesser since they are beholden to their master's will. The origins of the Beasts of Chaos are lost to the mists of time, but it's known that they existed in the Mortal Realms before Sigmar's arrival. In fact, they pretty much held dominance in the realms, preying on the weaker, isolated tribes of men, duardin, and aelf. Once the Age of Myth began and the civilizations and empires of other races began to grow they were pushed to the wilds of the realms. To them order and civilizations are anathema, and they want to see everything devolve into chaos again. This new Battletome introduces the myth of the Gorfather as well, a being who is said to have been the progenitor of the race and also the greatest of their kind. Not much is known about him, but he disappeared before the Age of Myth ended. Now it is prophesied that he'll return and take over control of the various greatfrays. 

The armies of the Beasts of Chaos are loosely organized into greatfrays. Each greatfray can consist of any number of beastherds which are usually centered around one faction of the fray, such as Brayherd or Thunderscorn, but they're at their most effective when they combine their might. These armies are held together by the power of an alphabeast, a particularly powerful leader, who holds onto their position through might alone. In fact, it's expected for that position of power to be challenged, for if the alphabeast can't defeat their challenger then they don't deserve to be in charge.

There are four major greatfrays discussed in the Battletome, the Allherd, the Darkwalkers, the Gavespawn, and the newly minted Quakefray. The Allherd are the largest and most dominant of the greatfrays and are found in all of the realms. When you think of the standard Beasts of Chaos look you're thinking of them. To me the Gavespawn are the most interesting. They "worship" Morghur, a character that long time fans of Warhammer may remember from the world-that-was. They're all about mutations unleashed and make use of a large amount of Chaos Spawn. While all greatfrays want to see civilization torn down and anarchy reign, the Gavespawn want to go 50 steps further and literally devolve everything down to primordial goo.

The new kids on the block, the Quakefray, are all about Cygors and Ghorgons. According to the lore, they're actually an older greatfray that went missing for ages and was thought to be destroyed. With the energies of Kragnos playing havoc with the realms though they've been roused and have returned to trample the other civilizations. One fray that's mentioned in the timeline section, but has no rules or further exploration is the Varanfray. I actually really love the idea behind these guys. These are the Beasts of Chaos who have sworn allegiance to Archaon and march under his banners from the Varanspire. They are unusually organized and cohesive for a greatfray, and often march into battle alongside the Ogroids. If I were to do a Beasts army I think I would make it these guys. Lots of Bestigors with Ogroid allies.

While most beasts shun the gods, there are certain Beasts of Chaos who will dedicate themselves to one god over the others, but they are commonly seen as being weak for doing so and either killed or cast out. These are commonly known as Tzaangors, Slaangors, Pestigors, and Khorngors. Those that are powerful enough are allowed back into their beastherds. Sometimes the most powerful of them can even rise to lead an entire beastherd or even greatfray, and turn it to the worship of one of the four gods.

The Beasts of Chaos despise the forces of Order and the cities raised by Sigmar's armies. They would love nothing more than to raze them all to the ground. With the Era of the Beast in full swing, the bestial energies have had quite the effect on the only faction with the word "beast" in their name. The shamans of the race were swamped with visions of destruction that has spurred the beastherds onto even more intense levels of violence. Several prominent alphabeasts have arisen to take command of the largest greatfrays, each born with the mark of the Gorfather upon them. There's also a particularly cunning Great Bray-Shaman known as Ghorraghan Khai, who seeks to bind the newly unleashed Incarnates to his will. This storyline was covered in the Season of War: Thondia book.

One of the most interesting new developments though is the Turnskin Curse. This was unleashed by the Gavespawn from the Witherdwell, an area in Ghyran where corruption oozes up from the ground. It's a plague that devolves others, whether human, aelf, or whatever, into gor like creatures. This can be spread through contact, or even just through stories and rumors. If someone speaks of the curse in hushed whispers at a local tavern, that night some of the recipients of the tale may find themselves to have grown hooves and horns. Those who are afflicted by it then must flee civilization or else they'll be killed by those they once called friends. They usually find there way to a beastherd in the wilds. To the true Beasts of Chaos, these creatures are galled gaves. They're seen as unpure and unworthy. Sometimes they're outright killed, or if not, and they're accepted into the herd, they're still mistreated and used for menial tasks or cannon fodder. Those that are still mostly human looking are sometimes dressed in rags and sent back into the cities to spread the Turnskin curse further. This plague is sweeping the realms, further bolstering the ranks of the true children of Chaos.

The Rules

Do you like ambushing goats? What about armies full of monsters? How about an elite force of dragonmen? Well, Beasts of Chaos has you covered. I'm not going to spend a ton of time going over every specific rule and warscroll since other sites do that better and you can already see most of it in the App. What I do want to discuss though is the general "vibe", some of the more important changes since the last book, and some of the army wide rules.

One of the biggest additions in this battletome, and one that I really love, is that the entire army has the ability to ambush! You can keep them all off the board at the start of the game if you want, and then bring them in from the table sides on your first and second turns. You can't keep them in ambush longer than that, but they do get a +1" bonus to their charges on the turn they come in. Previously this ability was restricted to only brayherd models such as your various flavors of Gor, as well as the Darkwalker subfaction. The Beasts have always been about ambushing, even back in the rank and flank days of Fantasy Battles and now it's returned in full force!

To coincide with this new army wide ability there are a few other new rules, such as your general being able to generate a command point even if they're off the board in ambush. The coolest one in my opinion is the ability for Ungor Raiders to shoot their bows at units even when they're not on the board. You just pick a spot on the table edge and measure from their. It's really fun and thematic.

The Beasts also have four unique Heroic Actions in the form of the Rituals of Ruin. These are all pretty good. Some of them cause mortal wounds to a nearby enemy unit, while others buff your own units, or make enemy units move closer to you. These are extra unique in that every Beasts of Chaos hero on the board can perform one of these, in addition to the regular 1 Heroic Action you get to do. Also, one hero off the board can perform one. They can each only be done once, but as previously said, there are four to choose from. You also have to inflict either D3 mortal wounds on yourself or a nearby friendly unit to perform them, fitting into the ritual nature of them.

There are 6 command traits and 6 artifacts to choose from, which I'm not going to really go into, as well as a spell lore for both Brayherd (goats) and another one for Thunderscorn (Dragon Ogors). You can also pick from one of four greatfrays for your army to be from. The Allherd is the largest of them and definitely favors gors. All of your Gor and Ungor units return D3+3 models to the unit at the end of the battleshock, really encouraging you to take larger blobs of them. The Darkwalkers, being the masters of ambush, allow you to remove a unit near the board edge and bring them back on somewhere else. The Gavespawn are all about Spawn models and have a special Spawn unit they can take as battleline in addition to the regular Spawn. The Morghurite Spawn unit is a little better than a regular Spawn, and also has an Aura of Insanity that makes nearby enemy units be -1 attack. Lastly, the Quakefray unlocks Cygors and Ghorgons as battleline and also makes all Cygors priests with access to a special prayer.

On the Warscroll front, a bunch of stuff got reworked. In my opinion almost all of the gor stuff got better, which is great, because they're some of my favorite models. The standard Gor, often overlooked, is finally worth taking, with both a better overall warscroll and a new special rule called Gor Stampede that makes it so enemy units you charge fight last on a roll of a 3+. All of the gor units have a banner that makes them rally on a 5+ instead of a 6, which further reinforces that endless horde feel. I also feel like Bestigors are even more worth of being the best gors since they finally have 2 wounds. I have heard some people saying their points are too high at the moment though, but that's easily adjusted down the line. Speaking of points, almost everything has gone up! Personally, I'm a fan of this. Make the units better so you need less of them. I've always likes the Beasts of Chaos, but one of the things that's made me stay away is the number of models needed to play them. Now it's a much more reasonable amount of minis. I saw someone say the 2,000 point army recently used in the Warhammer+ Battle Report is only about 1,300 points using the old book, so that kind of gives you an idea of the change there.

Another exciting addition is the inclusion of the Slaangor models. It always seemed weird that you couldn't take them in a Beasts army when the Tzaangors were available. They also got a new warscroll, making them a little bit better. They're really cool models so I hope we see them on the table more. Now we just need some new Pestigor and Khorngor models. A lot of the changes from the recent White Dwarf update also got folded into this book, such as unique monstrous rampages for some of the monsters. Overall I think it's a huge improvement from the last book in terms of good rules that reflect the lore of the army. It also offers a wholly unique way to play an AoS army with the ambush rule. For me, one of the biggest draws is the overall look of the army, the anarchic vibe, and the awesome models, but the unique and flavorful rules certainly add a ton to that as well. It really feels like it would be super fun to both play, and play against. Speaking of the models though...

The Models

Model by Eat Bray Love

Although I think the Beasts of Chaos models are awesome and could talk quite a bit about them, I figured I would bring in someone who has much more experience with them than myself. Take it away Eat Bray Love!

Models by Eat Bray Love

Eat Bray Love: Do you enjoy metal music? Do you love adorable farm animals? Do you wish those cute little goats had opposable thumbs, and a burning desire to trample civilization into dust? Then Beasts of Chaos might be for you!

Model by Eat Bray Love

The core Beasts of Chaos model range was updated around 2010-2011 for 7th edition Warhammer Fantasy. There are a few older models showing their age (like the Shaggoth, Chaos Warhounds, Razorgors, and Tuskgor Chariots), but otherwise these glorious goats and brutal bulls still looks pretty good despite being designed for a rank-and-flank game. The Ghorgon and Cygor in particular are still awesome monsters even compared to current sculpts. 

Models by Eat Bray Love

Dragon Ogres are the last Warhammer Fantasy additions to the range, released in 8th edition. Some people complain that they look a bit stiff, but it really helps if you put some of their front feet on “tactical rocks/ruins” to give some more pose variety.

Models by Eat Bray Love

Luckily we’ve received some cool new models during the Age of Sigmar era as well: Tzaangors, Slaangors, Grashrak’s Despoilers, and of course our Endless Spells and Herdstone. There’s also a Bestigor Destroyer in the Spire Tyrants Warcry warband that you can steal for a unique unit champion. These models give us a taste of how good the rest of the army will look when we get our eventual range refresh! 

Model by Eat Bray Love

But if you’re a fan of older metal and resin sculpts, you can still find some out-of-production metal models on eBay. The old metal Ungors, Pestigors, and Khornegors are classics, and Khazrak and Malagor aren’t looking too bad either.

Model by Eat Bray Love

For painters, the Beasts of Chaos models are a great way to practice painting flesh, fur, and weathering metals and cloth. You don’t need to worry about having a unifying colour scheme before you start painting—as long as your basing is consistent, your horde of Beasts will look good together. In fact, diversity is more in tune with the chaotic nature of the army.

Model by Eat Bray Love

If you are a creative person, there is a lot of conversion potential with this army. For some very basic kitbashing, Chaos Marauders and Marauder Horsemen arms fit nicely onto Gor and Bestigor bodies.  And with a little work, you can convert the Gors, Pestigors, and Khornegors from Bloodbowl to get some cool dynamic infantry.

Model by Eat Bray Love

Because Beastmen can be blessed by one of the main Chaos gods (though the rules effect is minimal in the latest book), you can theme your army around Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, or Tzeentch. Daemonettes, Bloodreavers, Kairic Acolytes, and Blight Kings are a great source of bits for this purpose.

Model by Eat Bray Love

Being the True Children of Chaos, your goats and cows should probably also have some horrifying mutations. The Gavespawn sub-faction in particular encourages you to take this to the next level. If you can get your hands on the old Forsaken kit, the models kitbash very well with Brayherd kits to produce some twisted creatures. For Bullgors and Dragon Ogres, the Chaos Spawn kit is a good source of bits.

Model by Eat Bray Love

If you’d like to see more of my Beasts, my username is eat_bray_love666 on Instagram. And for more inspiration, check out the wonderful conversions and paint jobs from jp_miniatures and jarofcranston.

Tyler: Thank you again to Eat Bray Love for contributing to this article and for showing off his awesome models. I highly recommend checking out this Instagram accounts above. 

So what are your thoughts on the Beasts of Chaos? Are you going to answer the call of the wild and join the nearest greatfray? Personally I think the Beasts of Chaos are one of the coolest armies in the game and are sadly often overlooked. While some of their models are a bit old, they have all aged wonderfully. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more armies of these on the tabletop!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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