The Bokor and Swamp Shamblers are one of those delightful units where fun and competitiveness really come together in one great package. The fun part? They’re a unit of disgusting zombie fish men that can make more of themselves with the corpses of their slain comrades and enemies, and they’re led by an alligator witch doctor that can sacrifice their miserable existences to turn himself into a terrifying killing machine. The competitive part? They’re a unit of disgusting zombie fish men that can make more of themselves with the corpses of their slain comrades and enemies, and they’re led by an alligator witch doctor that can sacrifice their miserable existences to turn himself into a terrifying killing machine.
So how do they work? For six points you get a unit of 10 Shamblers and their Bokor leader. As wretchedly low as the Shambler’s stats are, they at least have a MAT of 5. There’s a chance they might actually hit something. Additionally, while their ARM 13 is nothing to brag about, it means they won’t automatically die from blasts. Also of note is the obvious fact that they’re Undead, meaning they’ll never run away, have immunity to a few effects, and won’t be handing out Soul Tokens. Amphibious, their final abitlity of note, is mostly helpful for Blindwater and/or Barnabus players since you’re more likely to see water terrain with them. But enough about these guys, the Bokor is the main act.
It’s the Bokor who will be making more of these little guys, which, lets face it, is the whole point. He gets a corpse token for any living (remember that living part when you use your Witch Doctor to Zombify things) model killed in his command range, and during your control phase these tokens will become Shamblers that must be placed in formation with his unit. Free zombies! Additionally this guy can use the Death Magic ability to spend Shamblers in the same way a Warcaster spends focus, using them to boost or buy additional attacks. While a Shambler unit’s size is capped at 20, even if you have only a modest ten Shamblers in the unit, that’s still a potential 12 attacks for the Bokor after you count his initials. Or, with the same number of Shamblers, you could do up to four attacks boosted for attack and damage – assuming the Bokor charged. And if you save the Bokor’s attacks for last, all the Shamblers will get to make their attacks too.
The ability to spend Shamblers for boosts also applies to the Bokor’s Hand of Glory attack. This is good since this little 3″ magic attack will make it’s target stationary. It’s a spell you’ll want going off on enemy casters, and without the ability to boost, the Bokor will struggle to hit their high DEF. The low range means you’ll be unlikely to get the spell off frequently, but it’s a nice late game tool for when you and your opponent have ground each other down to just a few pieces and you want to end the game on top.
So what armies will want to take this unit? If you’re a Blindwater player you’ll probably want to grab a unit just to have something new to play with. Unfortunately the low model count in most gator armies combined with the resilience of those models means you’ll have to hope your opponent brought along some troops of their own if you have plans to make swarms of Shamblers. Maelok can help a little with this. Revive will let you keep making those shamblers over and over as living models from other units die, create corpse tokens, and are returned to play. Additionally his feat is good for Undead models. Unfortunately between Death Pact and Zombify, a lot of the friendly models that you might want to make into Shamblers will be Undead.
That’s why I personally look forward to using the Shamblers in Rask’s Tier list where it’s all Trogs all the time. With all the little fishmen you can (and probably should) take with Watery Graves, you should have no shortage of bodies to Shambler-ify. This is also the only way (outside of multi-caster games) for you to take two units of Shamblers. Interestingly enough, doubling down on Shamblers is about more than just having extras. The Bokor’s Death Magic doesn’t specify he has to pull Shamblers from his own unit for his boosts and buys, so having a second unit to pull from can easily double the damage output of a single Bokor. And Rask has Fury (the spell, not the resource) to hand out making that Bokor even deadlier.
So how about outside of Blindwater? Skorne seems to have the most use for them. It even goes beyond the usual Taskmaster shenanigans that Skorne can employ. Void Seer Mordikaar has some interesting potential. Like Maelok, he has Revive for optimal Shambler cycling. He also has Ghost Walk to play around with. If you think 20 Shamblers can get in the way of things, imagine them walking through enemy models. Sounds like a real mess. It’ll also make it that much easier for the Bokor to reach an enemy caster so he can start pulling Shamblers and make a kill. Unfortunately Zaal has a similar conflict to Maelok: One of his favorite spells, Hollow, makes models Undead.
Skorne also has Lord Tyrant (p)Hexeris. Death March is a big part of the fun here. It makes the Shamblers serviceable fighters with a MAT on par with many elite melee troops. Perhaps more delightfully than the MAT bonus is the fact that Death March grants Vengeance.Vengeance attacks trigger during the Maintenance Phase, so any corpse tokens gained at this time will join the unit during the Control Phase and may be activated normally during the unit’s Activation. And of course, the Lord Tyrant’s feat affects the Shamblers like any other unit. And given how many models are likely to die during a pHexeris feat turn, you should expect to have plenty of Shamblers the turn after. Hexeris is also the only Skorne Warlock I’m going to mention with no “friendly faction” abilities whatsoever. You don’t miss out on anything leaving your loyal Skorne troops at home. In fact if you ever find yourself wanting to run Skorne with only Minion units, this guy is as good as any for it.
But wait – let’s think about this for a second… just how much damage will 10 (we’ll just use 10 surviving Shamblers as the baseline) boosted damage rolls at P+S 14 do? You’re actually looking at 55 damage on average against ARM 20 assuming the Bokor doesn’t miss. And he probably won’t because all his attacks will be boosted. That’s enough to finish off most Colossals and any of the Gargantuans, Behemoth, and even Imperatus (he can even afford to miss Imperatus a couple of times if you’re worried about that pesky DEF 13). Not bad for a 6 point unit. The downside to Shamblers with Zaal is that it’s fewer Soul Tokens for the Ancestral Guardians this guy loves to take. The much bigger downside is fewer faction models for Zaals feat.
Outside of Skorne and Minions, the only Warlocks I can think of with real Synergy with the Shamblers are the Morvahnas. Morvahna the Autumnblade’s Regrowth is like Revive on steroids and brings Shambler cycling to whole new levels. As for the other Morvanah, Blood Sacrifice will also allow for some double dipping on the number of zombie trogs you can make. Although given how great she is without Shamblers, I don’t see the unit making her any better.
Of course that brings us to the question of whether Shamblers really make any of these warlocks patently better. Well that’s a tricky one to answer. I’m of the opinion that giving new tricks to old dogs can definitely provide an edge. Especially if everyone’s gotten used to their old tricks. People might be used to fighting Morvahna and Zaal, but they might not be prepared for Morvahna with a sea of Shamblers, or Zaal with a medium based unit leader that can hit as hard as some of the scariest models in the game.
~Hope I provided some helpful insights. And if you have any cool Shambler tactics of your own let’s hear about them. And thanks to our Skorne writer Muffinman for giving me some of the ideas for using the Shamblers in Skorne.