Fantasy Fisticuffs #10: Bonereaper Meta or How I Learned Not to Fear the Atomic Bomb

With Las Vegas Open, and CanCon 2020 behind us, the most recent “season” of competitive Age of Sigmar has ended.  As the new one begins we need to discuss the Ossiarch Bonereapers.

Many readers will have noticed that my Fantasy Fisticuff army-tactics articles have almost gone out of their way to not yet cover the Bonereapers.  This army made a giant splash upon release, saw tremendous uptake, and everyone sort of decided they were going to shake the landscape of competitive play, and yet I did not want to profile them until the book had some time to breathe.

This week’s article is not the usual analysis of an army, but is instead a bit of a cautionary tale about fearing that the sky is falling when a new book releases, or abandoning an army because a new flavor-of-the-month has emerged.

Prior to the two, big, season-closing events, much was made of the disproportionate representation of the Ossiarch Bonereapers.  Based on entrant’s lists, Bonereapers, on paper, were over-represented, trumping even the conventional wisdom of top-selling armies, whether particularly competitive or not, appearing in larger numbers.  In short, many players gambled that the OBR were the right pick at the right time, to win it all.

Those gambles were apparently lost.  That is not to say the army had a terrible showing, but across both events COMBINED, only three OBR lists made it into the top ten placings.  This is notable as near forty OBR players showed up across the two events. In essence, they had an entirely decent showing, but nothing more.

But what happened?  AoS pundits spent many a word explaining the likely dominance of the faction.  Going further back still, the even wider AoS community was horrified that Petrifex OBR were simply too good and would be the next thing to “ruin” the game.

What, in actuality, occurred is something I try to voice often, and something I wanted to encourage enthusiastic AoS players, and tabletop gamers in general, to remember.  Yes, there are sometimes powerful imbalances in these games, some even within books themselves, but skillful play, and understanding that “meta” is a layer of game unto itself, are real as well.  

The OBR wore its power so overtly, that players could easily counter-pick and predict their impact on the game.  The very nature of the vitriol directed at the Petrifex sub-faction, simultaneously drew massive sales for the army, but ensured in relative undoing, all in one swoop.

Now this is not to say the OBR are a bad army at all.  They are actually quite good, with a battletome that is a few sub-faction rebalances away from being excellent.  Those attracted to the army for its lore, models, or playstyle, are entirely understandable. Those who dove in head-first assuming they would roll tournaments, however, may have done themselves a disservice.

As always, part of the beauty of this absolutely amazing hobby, and community, is that it can be so many different things to different people.  If nothing else, I hope this little editorial aside actually encourages players to love whatever amy they love, and also develop their skills as they practice with their favorite faction(s).

Learning YOUR playstyle and finding the army to match will not only tend to improve your personal results, but the real bonus is in deepening your engagement and enjoyment in this hobby going forward.  If codex-hopping is how you enjoy your hobby, so be it, but I will hazard a guess that the people who go on to have life-long love of the tabletop hobby are those who follow their passions.

In closing, let me just take a moment to send a hearty congratulations to all those who participated in Competitive AoS in 2019.  May all of you have an exciting 2020 season during which you find yourselves even stronger players than in the last year. Meanwhile I will be off in the corner wondering if Vampire Coast might sneak out before the season ends.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Mark Gottlieb

Writer, Game Designer, and owner of Fortunate Sun Studios, I have always tried to lead a life in some way built around paying back to gaming, and the gaming community. This hobby, and everyone in it, saved my life on more than a few occasions, and now I get to put my heart into helping it thrive for everyone!

7 Responses to “Fantasy Fisticuffs #10: Bonereaper Meta or How I Learned Not to Fear the Atomic Bomb”

  1. Reecius February 7, 2020 3:55 pm #

    Excellent article and I completely agree with the message. So often people get lost in the idea that something is either broken or garbage when the reality is almost always somewhere in between. And, the single most important determining factor is and always will be player skill. There’s a reason why armies rise and fall in the rankings but the same players are there year in and year out.

    • Mark Gottlieb February 7, 2020 3:57 pm #

      I remember literally advocating for Possessed six months back, in my first ever article, when most said they were irredeemable trash… boy did that turn out alright. 😉

      • Reecius February 7, 2020 4:17 pm #

        Haha, yes, most players and internet pundits simply parrot one another. I don’t mean that as a put down or anything, it’s simply a fact. And a unit is “garbage” until someone wins with them and then they are awesome and everyone knows it. It’s funny how these things work.

      • abusepuppy February 8, 2020 11:48 pm #

        A lot of people actually were trying out Possessed in various combinations around that time- I myself had played with the idea of them as far back as two LVOs ago, though I had ultimately dismissed them. Just because something doesn’t work and doesn’t show up in list doesn’t mean nobody was trying them.

        • Reecius February 9, 2020 12:51 pm #

          Yeah, some of my teammates were playing the Possessed Bomb last year but I think Mark’s article was one of the first I saw on the topic.

  2. Colinsherlow February 8, 2020 11:40 am #

    I like these articles.

    Is there anywhere on this site that has them archived or something? For easier access to these articles.

    • Reecius February 8, 2020 12:07 pm #

      You can click on the author’s name in the links below the article or on the Age of Sigmar keyword link in the same part of the post and it will pull up all relevant articles.

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