28 Aug 2014

Tactica Astra Militarum - Ogryns and Bullgryns

Greeting ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the latest entry in my Astra Militarum Tactica series! Today is a special day dedicated to all those players that have ever inducted mercenaries or subhumans into the ranks of their Imperial Guard regiments; all may serve the Emperor faithfully even if His blessing is not meant for them! I speak of course of the lovable Ogryns - and the newly formed Bullgryns! - the huge and brutish soldiers in the employ of the Astra Militarum, proving that even those lacking in intelligence can use their strength or other assets for a good cause under an able commanders' leadership. I hope you enjoy this article!

Ogryns and Bullgryns

While there are a few common themes between the Astra Militarum and the Adeptus Astartes, perhaps the strangest is that the former has an equivalent of the latter's iconic Terminators despite being a typically static, long-ranged gun-line army. These manifest as the Ogryns and Bullgryns, a sub-human species of titanic proportions that is cursed - or gifted, depending on your perspective - with limited intelligence, making for crude but powerful assault troops in an army list that is otherwise bereft of such units. Against anything that isn't a Strength 10 attack, these two units are far more survivable than Terminators despite being priced similarly with a whopping three wounds per model at Toughness 5, even accounting for their poor to mediocre saving throws. While regular Ogryns will fall rapidly to concentrated pulse rifle fire from Tau Fire Warriors with only a pitiful 5+ armour save, the more heavily equipped Bullgryns with their 4+ or 3+ armour saves are incredibly survivable. While all but one variation of Bullgryns lack invulnerable saves, the Ogryn sub-types can't be put down nearly as quickly by plasma guns as Terminators - a Terminator will have a saving throw against it, but once it fails that roll it dies immediately whereas an Ogryn can truck on with two wounds remaining.

Their profile is very impressive and definitely makes Tyranid Warriors reek of jealousy, though Leadership 6 (seven on the "sergeant") with Stubborn combined with a poor Initiative 2 makes them incredibly susceptible to failing morale checks and Sweeping Advances. I am sure many players are thankful then that the Astra Militarum has numerous fixes for this particular issue with Leadership 9 from a Primaris Psyker, Fearless from a Ministorum Priest or Summary Execution from a Commissar! As for actual damage output, Ogryns of all kinds have an impressive three Strength 5 attacks each with a respectable Weapon Skill 4, making them above average melee fighters that can handily compete with lesser dedicated assault units such as Assault Marines. Throw in Hammer of Wrath and assault grenades - not that they really matter with Initiative 2 - and you have yourself a tough and suitably damaging assault unit that is priced almost identically to Space Marine Terminators despite having immensely improved durability.

Unfortunately, an issue with their army list and not the unit itself is that they lack an easily attainable delivery system - with no assault transports in the Astra Militarum codex and no option to Deep Strike, these squads are forced to either foot-slog and be used as a fire magnet or chuck a few models in a Chimera or Taurox. The latter option isn't a great alternative to foot-slogging because each Ogryn and Bullgryn is Very Bulky and thus takes up three spots per model in a transport, and seeing as the Chimera has twelve spots and a Taurox only three this really limits how many models you can take in a unit. An allied Land Raider Crusader is perfect for them but the cost of the unit does mount up to ridiculous levels and even exceeds that of most Terminator squads in the specific case of Bullgryns armed with power mauls and brute shields. Ogryns and Bullgryns with slab shields suffer from being incapable of dealing with AV12 or higher walkers with their limit to Strength 5 or lower attacks and having the inability to take upgraded ranged weapons such as meltaguns or a suitable Ogryn equivalent. This does leave them lacking against vehicles with similar rear armour values which are thankfully rare, but it nonetheless is an issue that is only addressed by paying exorbitant prices to give Bullgryns power mauls. The ranged weapons of each unit are limited by that mediocre Ballistic Skill 3 and the guns themselves have 12" ranges and are only really good for clearing out light infantry.

I am guessing the burning question on everyone's minds is who would win in a fist fight between Ogryns (or Bullgryns) and Terminators considering the two units are priced identically if the latter takes no upgrades. Whether we use standard Terminators or Assault Terminators makes surprisingly little difference to the end result, even if the Assault Terminators are further outfitted with thunder hammers and storm shields. In the case of power fists and thunder hammers, the Ogryns strike first with thirty Strength 5 attacks hitting on 4s and wounding on 3s, causing ten wounds to which one or two are unsaved on average. In reply, the Terminators strike back with twenty Strength 8 attacks hitting on 4s and wounding on 2s, causing roughly nine unsaved wounds for three dead Ogryns.

If you instead use lightning claws on the Assault Terminators, they attack first with thirty Strength 4 attacks that hit on 4s and wound on 5s with re-rolls thanks to Shred, causing roughly eight to nine unsaved wounds for - again - approximately three dead Ogryns that are then unable to attack back. Even if you account for Hammer of Wrath and shooting - the latter area gives Terminators a further edge unless they are of the Assault variety - the end results are mostly the same with the Terminators pulling ahead. You might ask though, what about the considerably more expensive Bullgryns with power mauls? If they are able to strike first then they hit fifteen times for around thirteen wounds caused, and two dead Terminators as a result due to their 2+ armour saves. The strikes back deal roughly six unsaved wounds rather than nine given that the Bullgryns have a 5+ invulnerable save for a total of two dead models per side, a trade that doesn't favour the Bullgryns as they lose more attacks and cost either twenty or fifteen points more per model than the Terminators. This is why I cannot label these units as top-tier melee units as they lack the hitting power to compete even with the generally over-priced Terminators, though they will definitely plow through Astra Militarum blobs and other horde units in record time.

All three of the units have their uses and are good if only as a very tough fire magnet, but they can't really be considered an elite melee unit unless you take the immensely expensive Bullgryns with power mauls and brute shields. This is why I feel Bullgryns with slab shields are the best unit overall out of the three choices available because they are more of a support unit than anything else, acting as a wall of meat that provides significant defensive bonuses to other friendly infantry and vehicles. They do suffer a bit from being some of only a few units in the codex that actually want to get into close combat as often as possible that presents a bit of a clash of ideologies - Astra Militarum units are mostly fragile and good at shooting and thus avoid melees as much as they can. Still, I can't fault them as they do provide a tough unit in an army that traditionally lacks these and they serve as natural - if expensive - fire magnets even if they can be hard-countered a bit too easily by a certain new Tyranid monstrous creature, a Manticore or something as "common" as a Demolisher Cannon.

How to Equip Them
Seeing as Ogryns have absolutely no options in terms of wargear, I can instead focus all of my attention on Bullgryns who are slightly improved with the choice of two different load-outs. Considering how incredibly expensive these units are in terms of points per individual model, it probably comes as no surprise that I heartily recommend sticking with the standard weapon set as it also gives Bullgryns a more generalist role. Their ranged weapons are inaccurate and nothing special with such a limited range but when fired en masse they can scythe through horde units incredibly quickly, while their mass of Strength 5 close combat attacks and Hammer of Wrath can put tougher melee units to shame. Still, the best reason to stick with the standard equipment is the slabshield, a piece of wargear that provides any unit obscured by the Bullgryns an impressive 4+ cover save instead of the usual 5+.

For an army that lacks tough Objective Secured units and instead must rely on slow hordes of inexpensive but fragile bodies to keep enemies at bay on an objective, this is an absolutely critical ability and serves to make Bullgryns far more useful than Ogryns ever could be. Having the equivalent of a mobile Aegis Defence Line on a unit that is universally Toughness 5 with three wounds and a 4+ or 3+ armour save - the latter is used when they bunch up - is a godsend for an army like the Astra Militarum that does have trouble capturing enemy controlled or neutral objectives in the midfield and opposing deployment zone. The brute shield and power maul combo does turn Bullgryns into more expensive but far deadlier Terminator equivalents but the cost to upgrade and loss of the all important slabshield just doesn't seem as appealing to me, especially seeing as the Astra Militarum lacks any native assault transport options, reducing the value of a dedicated melee unit.

Best Uses
While many may debate as to the best application of Ogryns, Bullgryns with slabshields have one very obvious role and that is to be used as a mobile defence line by providing 4+ cover saves to all units they obscure. Considering the size of Bullgryn models and the widespread access for camo cloaks or camo gear across the codex, this can see the vast majority of your army protected by a whopping 3+ cover save. The key that ties this all together is the Toughness 5 models with three wounds each and a 3+ armour save when in base contact with each other. There is an important note to make with the slabshield rules and that is the specification that two or more models have to be in base contact for those specific models to get the armour save boost. What this means is that you can have a squad of ten and then divide them into five "pairs of two models each in base contact with each other but each pair separated by the usual 2" unit coherency rules.

This allows you to cover a huge area, roughly 25" across, where all models behind the Bullgryns that are even partially obscured will benefit from an impressive 4+ cover save. The aptly named "Bullgryn Wall" is easily the best and most useful application of the unit given that getting them into combat isn't easy with no assault transport or incredibly durable platform outside of Super Heavies to ferry them across the battlefield reliably. The unit itself is tough enough to soak up incredible amounts of firepower and, unless it is focused on early, the more important squads or vehicles advancing behind it will be relatively safe from harm. Leman Russes, Chimeras and Combined Squads all benefit immensely from easily accessed 4+ cover saves, especially in Maelstrom of War missions where the key to victory is to be mobile - something that usually isn't possible with most Astra Militarum lists because of their static nature. While the Bullgryn Wall might not be the most widely used unit in tournaments, I feel it is definitely the best answer to Maelstrom of War missions if you play an army list consisting heavily of foot-slogging infantry - mechanized armies of course have the mobility to not require this unit.

For Ogryns and Bullgryns with brute shields, their uses are a bit more narrow - they can advance as a line or block formation to provide a huge fire magnet for your opponents, but the Bullgryns aside they just lack the damage output to really be a major threat to most enemies. Ogryns are lacking in both shooting and close combat when one considers how expensive they are, while their short range and paltry 5+ armour save sees that they really should be ferried forwards by Chimeras or Tauroxes - the latter is surprisingly preferable here if you want to save some points and use an extra fire point. Bullgryns with brute shields don't fulfill the same support role as Bullgryns with slab shields and should thus be seen as a dedicated melee unit that packs a whopping punch, and though they are scarily tough they need to be transported much like Ogryns as otherwise they will accomplish nothing. Any savvy opponent knows that Bullgryns with brute shields and Ogryns can do nothing to their own units until they close in to a 12" or smaller zone and will thus ignore them in favour of more pressing targets early on, such as your Wyverns, Basilisks and Objective Secured Troops choices.

Ogryns and Bullgryns with brute shields are theoretically good Terminator equivalents but the lack of other proper close ranged assault or shooting units in the codex for the most part makes them standout as a bit of a red herring, an odd child amongst a force typically suited to a gunline. They aren't bad by any means but their pure damage output is strictly reliant on close quarters combat and unless they steal an allied assault transport they aren't going to be getting there in a hurry, especially seeing as the rest of the codex isn't suited to that type of warfare. The reason standard Bullgryns don't suffer from this issue is that they are built as a support unit first and a combat unit second; they can still be a crucial buffer for the rest of your army, whereas the other two don't fulfill that same role nearly as well. Attaching a Ministorum Priest to any of these three units is heavily advised given their high cost and low Leadership values.

It is also prevalent to note that Bullgryns with slab shields are just a far better unit overall compared to the other two, being the toughest of the three against small arms fire and providing a huge defensive bonus for an army with typically fragile infantry and vehicles that are susceptible to melee attackers. As for unit sizes, the Bullgryn Wall should be run as a unit of ten - this will be all you need at games of 1500 or more points to protect your Objective Secured scoring units. Bullgryns with brute shields should be run in groups of three or four depending on which transport they use - or up to eight if you steal a Land Raider Crusader - though a big foot-slogging unit could feasibly work when combined with Biomancy psychic powers such as Endurance. For Ogryns, the lack of a 3+ armour save or 5+ invulnerable save even despite still being Toughness 5 with three wounds a piece just makes them far too easily mowed down by even basic Tau Fire Warriors, and thus a transport of your preference is also recommended - this means three or four models if it is a Taurox or Chimera, respectively.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found my collated thoughts on the lovable Ogryns to be useful to your cause as an Astra Militarum commander! They may be simple of mind but the units themselves certainly require a deft touch when it comes to making them a worthwhile choice over the boring but always dependable option of more and more guns. Ogryns are expensive for what they bring but they certainly help to diversify an army list that has long been renowned for its hordes of expendable infantry and powerful selection of tanks and flyers. Hopefully this article was useful to you all and I want you all to have yourselves a lovely day!


  1. I was considering using Cypher to give infiltrate, shrouded, fleet, H&R and ATSKNF to a full squad of Bullgryns. He's expensive, but it could be a nice combo. Plus I've always wanted to use Cypher, he's one of the most interesting characters in 40k.

  2. Great explanation of the bullgryn wall.

  3. Great explanation of the bullgryn wall.