It was great to see the Ratkin Vanguard orders go live last week. The stand-outs for me were the Vermintide and Hackpaw rider. Both feature regularly in my lists, so seeing Mantic representation so early is fantastic.
Whilst I’m waiting for the pre-order to become an order, before making its way down south from Nottingham I’ve made a start on rebasing some of the Mantic elements of my current collection. I was going to share them with you today in the pretty picture, unit overview type format. But, I got a bit stumped on Nightmares because they are generally described as “not as good as Ogre Boomers” and I think there is a bit more to them. The Boomer comparison has its merits, but having been tabled by a Ratkin list that featured two hordes and went on to come second in the tournament, and seeing them dish out the damage in my Abyssal Dwarf slave army I think there is more to explore.
This led me to mull over the comparison with Boomers, which kicked off a very unproductive evening of pondering just how important synergy is to Ratkin in third edition. The upshot of all this is a bit of a thought experiment on whether it’s possible to make Nightmares into actual nightmares, as opposed to slightly awkward dreams involving public nudity.
I will apply the usual content warning: these are not the words of a seasoned tournament ace, just the musings of a rat fan (in the voice of Roland Rat).
Rats are probably more dependent on synergy than any other force in Kings of War because of Rally. Being able to up your nerve points by 2 is pretty impactful. Add to that the various different auras and support rules, such as Eat the Weak, you have a set of army mechanics that really breathes life into a race that is brave with the weight of numbers on its side, but quickly loses interest if the fight doesn’t immediately go their way.
Let’s kick off with that comparison
Nightmare and Boomer hordes both have speed 6, melee 4, range 4, attacks 18, Crushing Strength 1, Steady Aim and range 12”. Where Nightmares dip out is on nerve (14/16 vs 15/17), Piercing 1 (a massive advantage on a shooting unit) and to a lesser extent Brutal (Nightmares’ Vicious (melee) goes some way to making up for it).
Nightmares do have a higher defence, but if we are talking about a straight up, side by side comparison Boomers take the win every time because of the Piercing (and Boomer hordes are also 5 points cheaper). However, it’s been a while since I last played a 235 point game, and this is where the thought experiment takes over and we pick through some of the synergies in the rat list, starting with Rally.
Generally, when I see Boomers on the table there are two hordes stood next to each other, not surprising really (one does not simply walk into 36 piercing 1 shots). Having Nightmares stood next to each other brings Rally into play. This brings the Nightmare and Boomer nerve into line so when it comes to a 570 point game the two units are hitting and wounding (each other at least) on the same score. Beyond 570 points, adding another source of Rally takes the Nightmare’s nerve to a very respectable 16/18 which lifts the Nightmare survivability above that of the Boomers. It’s also just the beginning.
This really is one of the stand-out units in the Ratkin list. It brings so much synergy-based goodness to the table. The Tangle not only brings that additional source of Rally, but also a dollop of inspiring and an Aura of Fury, meaning the Nightmares are now that much more reliable in combat. The Tangle’s enviable list of spells, Weakness, Banechant and Fireball, can all be used to wring those extra dribbles of performance from one of the hordes in any given turn.
With Radiance of Life and Drain Life Brood Mothers are all about the healing. The value of healing is very much dependent on how survivable the recipient is. A unit can’t be healed unless it survives damage. With defence 5 and nerve 16/18 our Nightmares are pretty damn survivable. The radiance guarantees a wound will be restored each turn, with Eat the Weak allowing up to 10 wounds to be recovered each turn. In addition, the Brood Mother’s staff can lend some extra weight to shooting when patching up is not required.
Greater than the sum
All those lovely synergies suddenly makes our Nightmares far more, well, nightmarish. Of course, at this point the horde of Nightmares that started this thought process has become two hordes, a Tangle and Brood Mother (stone soup anyone?). Full disclosure – to really make the most of this you’ll need some additional units like Vermintide to bolster Eat the Weak, up the spell casting power of the Tangle and carry out general chaff duties, but what else would you be spending points on in a Ratkin list?
Full full disclosure
Synergies are a real double-edged sword. Whilst they can increase the effectiveness of units the need for presence and proximity of supporting units means the enhanced units you can create can be weakened without the enemy having to attack them directly. In addition, you have to be really careful that units stay within the ranges of auras and effects which can lead to some difficult priority calls as games progress. So, whilst I ponder over the merits of synergy and stone soup I will leave you with an ancient Ratkin proverb:
The Nightmare horde 7” away from the rest of the army is just a slightly over-priced, under performing Boomer horde.