03 November 2013

Gunnbjorn: The Troll We All Love To Hate

Have you ever been to a restaurant and saw a mighty fine piece of pie being displayed? You might have thought, "Mmm that looks like good pie" and order it with your meal. After eating a hearty delicious meal you receive your piece of pie, only to find it a little less appealing then you had when you walked in. Taking a bite you aren't too impressed. Between your initial expectations and your full stomach you really regret buying that piece of pie. If that restaurant were Hordes, then the meal is Trollbloods, and that pie is Gunnbjorn.

So what did that ridiculous metaphor mean? Well I think it comes down to the fact that Gunnbjorn isn't really awful, he's just not the warlock we expect to find. You look at his stats and you find decent speed, average RAT and MAT, effectively DEF 15 ARM 18, and typical FURY 6. Is that bad? No, for Trolls it's pretty solid. He can get up the field, hit when he needs to (with a boost if necessary ), and he's not easy to kill with transfers and sitting behind your army. His stats are solid.

If it isn't his stat line, is it that he is not pulling his weight? His bazooka is range 12, has an AOE 3, POW 14 and has Critical Devastation. It can only be fired once, but thats pretty standard in Trolls. It is definitely threatening. A POW 14 boostable gun that has and effective range of 16" can do work and then some, also while it isn't something to depend on, crit. devastation is nasty when it goes off. How effective is it really though? Honestly most opponents I've played may not respect Gunnbjorn, but they do respect his big ol' bazooka.

You know and I both know that Gunnbjorn is generally despised, but I haven't really gotten as to why. Well it starts at his spell list. Gunnbjorn's spell list screams gun line, especially beast heavy.

  • Explosivo: makes your non-spray guns magical, and if they don't have an AOE they become AOE 3, not bad when it only costs one FURY, but honestly Gunnbjorn probably has better uses for his FURY
  • Guided Fire: some call it a trap, I think its fury management which trolls sorely need. It costs 3, but boosts every ranged attack in Gunnbjorn's battle group. It isn't something to build for, but definitely worth taking advantage of if you have at least two beasts with guns, which most of Troll lights do.
  • Rock Wall: lets you put down a wall template in Gunnbjorn's control area. It's good, I think this might be his best spell. It costs two and can is an upkeep. Many probably use it the same way they use Janissa's, but it has a lot more versatility. One fun strategy is placing it down in front of and enemy colossal or gargantuan and laughing because they can move past it with their huge base. Another combo is with Troll's other black sheep, the Mountain King. By placing Janissa and Gunnbjorn's walls in a wedge shape in front of MK a player can drastically reduce the amount of models that can swarm MK thus helping it stay alive.
  • Snipe: an additional 4" on your ranged weapon's threat range. At cost two it is pretty much an upkeepable version of far strike, do we need that in trolls? Yes, on Gunnbjorn at least. It's not that he replaces impalers, its just that he upkeeps it on himself for the game, to extend his own threat, but managing to stay far away from combat. Like I said before, his gun is scary, and at 16" there aren't a lot of places to hide in a kill box scenario.
In a faction that doesn't really like many of its gun options Gunnbjorn really feels out of place. However I feel that if used in the right, but not obvious, ways his spells start to fit in. Guided Fire with only a battlegroup of a bomber and an impaler is already cost efficient thats four boosts for the price of three, and no need to go all in to see it do work. These spells certainly point towards a list full of gun toting beasts, but with Rock Wall one of the things it supports best is an Earthborn. Before it was tied to within 5" of Janissa and then would run off hoping to find more obstacles next their targets, but with Gunnbjorn you could place the wall after it charged from the safe distance of 12" away. There is versatility in his spell list, however it isn't efficient. There are casters and spells that do these tricks better, but none can do it quite like Gunnbjorn. 

Now we come to his feat, his pièce-de-résistance, and probably the worst thing about him. 
  • Fortification: gives immunity to blast damage, cover, and no knock down, wow is that all?
Looking at his feat always makes me wonder if they didn't finish printing it. It is very lacklustre and in a game where the feats are a defining feature of a warlock or warcaster, the very culmination of their character and magical skill, it is hard to get excited over Gunnbjorn's. Especially when compared to Grim's or Madrak's. Even the fluffy blurb that each feat gets fails to capture how utterly dull it is. It talks of turning troops into unassailable fortresses, when what it really does is make them hard to shoot, and it still isn't that good. I mean it does nice things. Cover is nice, but boostable guns are still a thing. No blast damage is nice on Fennblades, and pygs, but everything else we bring has high enough armour it isn't an issue. No knock-down also nice, counters some other feats (e.g. Bart, pKreoss, Barnabas), and keeps them standing after tough. Again these are nice things, but none of them, nor their cumulative benefits equal any other feat.  Enemy players don't look at his card and worry about what they'll do on his feat turn, thats bad. An effective feat poses a problem that makes the opposing player need to plan for it, Gunnbjorn's feat does not achieve this. If Gunnbjorn's feat were a weapon it would be a rock you picked up off the ground. A rock is heavy and blunt and can hurt or even kill someone, but compared to a sword or spear, weapons designed with a purpose, it doesn't match up. Gunnbjorn's feat is just too average, its rules are pulled from the most mundane and basic rules, but are not honed to give the player a sense of purpose. They just scream, "RUN FORWARD AND HOPE YOU DON'T DIE!" His feat doesn't ask or answer any problems, it just gives his army a kick in the pants to get it started. 

So what do I think of Gunnbjorn, I think he's a decent caster thats a little mixed up. He isn't bad, he doesn't get in his own way, he supports his army, and his feat has a few applications. He isn't our best warlock in faction, and he's probably our worst. However I still think you could play him in a tournament and win. Would it your best choice? Probably not. Would I expect you to win? Again, no. But I do believe that it is possible. That is the beauty of Warmachine and Hordes, the game is balanced enough that a good player can win with even the worst warlock/warcaster. Gunnbjorn has his down sides, but he's got a lot of character and is fun to play, which are also important aspects of the game.  

There is always a thread or a conversation going on that asks, "How do you fix Gunnbjorn?" There are a few different things you could put on that wish list. 
  • His feat was friendly, not faction friendly, it helps Boomhowlers and Nyss way more then it helps any Trollblood unit.
  • Better fury management in trolls
  • Access to Reinholt, an extra shot on his gun or signs and portents on one roll is pretty handy on him. Thinking about his shooting his bazooka twice makes me drool
  • A magical weapon, and not having to rely on explosivo
Reading this conclusion I hope you aren't turned off of Gunnbjorn, that wasn't the intention. Gunnbjorn has some haters, but he has his supporters and this is for both of you. Hate him if you want, love him if you want, but we can all agree he has an epic model. 

Any questions or comments you can reach me here

Crash West


  1. Solid write up Crash! You hit on a solid number of areas I think are overlooked by most troll players and while Gunny is far from perfect, he's not as useless or gimped as most think he is.

    He's a credible threat and one most don't see coming because he's very under used in our faction when compared to the likes of Borka/doomy/grissel and madrak.

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  3. I adore Gunny, not because he is good (so far he is the one and only Caster I have used) but because the model is lovely and Guided Fire is extremely handy when running two bombers and a slag troll, that is a lot of fury management. I do need to play better with him, I hardly ever use the Wall for example, but I am hoping with more practice at this game that will improve :)

  4. I like to run him with swamp gobbers unless your fighting Niss, you don't need a wall. Frees up some Fury for guided fire and snipe. I have a tier 4 list I played at a tournament I won 2 lost 2 ...and got a assassination with a guided fire shot from his Bazooka. But if I play it a gain, I'm sticking to a tier3. I got to have my Impaler.