Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hellheart - Unrequited Love

When the Ogre Kingdoms book was release there was great fear and loathing at the inclusion of the Hellheart amongst the magic items.

This item was grossly overpowered and blatantly a "sports/comp hit".

Let's refresh ourselves with its rules. Once per game at the start of an opponent's magic phase - after rolling for Winds of Magic, channelling etc - the Ogre player can activate the Hellheart. At this point he rolls a die and any opposing Mage within 5x that roll in inches suffers a Miscast.

Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I have been playing the Hellheart in my 2000 point Ogres and have wracked up 6-8 games. In those games the actual experience has been underwhelming to say the least.

Firstly the mechanics of it are very random. If the range was 5D6 inches you would have a normal distribution curve centred around 17.5". This would provide far more certainty for its use. The actual mechanic is totally random giving you 6 possible outcomes equally as likely as the other. This impacts its tactical use.

Secondly the Miscast table itself. There are five possible outcomes on this table. Two (Str 6 hit on friendly mages, small template Str 10 hit) outcomes have a 25% chance. The other three outcomes have a 16% chance. This means that will you may wound a Wizard you are unlikely - due to Hellheart alone - to kill a Mage.

Where the true value of the Hellheart is - and still highly dependent on luck - is in closing down an opposing magic phase. You have an 83% chance for each affected Mage that they will lose D6 Power Dice. As noted previously this is pure random as the range is determined by a single D6 roll.

So what does this mean for tactical play? Well the Ogre player has to make a calculated choice on activating the heart. Now generally he is happy to be in combat so closing the gap with enemy mages is not an issue. This means you are generally holding it for a Turn 3/4 earliest activation to ensure you get best use. Therefore early in the game you are susceptible to offensive magic unless you take a second Mage. This is becoming more common in Ogre armies as the prime Mage takes a lore other than Maw and you therefore are required to pay the "Butcher Tax". One of your two mages carries the Hellheart while the other takes a scroll.

What has been my return on the Hellheart? Offensively, virtually nil. As indicated it is too random in effect regards damage output. I suspect that the results I have had are generally indicative but it is a statistically small sample. Defensively, it can be very good. Held and then unleashed it can close down a critical magic phase - however this relies on your opponent generally allowing you within 10.1" of his mages. Smart opponents will react.

Overall I think it is a well priced item. It has a big negative in its range mechanic that push it more towards the quirky than the must have. Every time I take it I wonder whether I wouldn't be better having an extra Maneater so I suspect that is a good thing.

All that said I'm looking forward to the day when a Vampire Lord, Grey Seer, hierophant disappear down a hole!



  1. I actually quite like it. Yes the effect is random but your right in that it does shut down an entire magic phase and with the plethora of L1 mages in some armies even doing one wound on one of them is a reasonable bonus. Points wise if you compare it to say 2 Runes of Spellbreaking at 45pts where you kill one spell and have a 50% chance of eating it, it is a great item. Here for 50pts I can kill an entire phase and quite possibly wound 1 or more enemy mages.

    It does mean however that my Butcher, who usually carries it, and his unit exist primarily to deliver the Hellheart and my main goal with them is to push them forward until they are close enough to pop it. My play style with Ogres means my intent is to push up and smash into combat asap so my magic aims at boosting each units survivability vs. shooting (why I take Maw on my L4 and L2), the Hellheart helps protect against magic for at least one turn. I usually use it in the turn before charges go in.

    It is as you point out though highly situational and at times doesn't pay off at all where either you never get to use it (no enemy mages in range or the carrier dies), an opponent has few if any mages or you do use it and it misses. But other times its effects are spectacular and this makes it a fun item to take and to me a worthwhile one. Against Daemons, Dark Elves, Vampires and Beastmen it can pay off big time e.g. at Call to Arms I used it against Mikes Beastmen caught all 3 of his mages, power drained one, wounded the 2nd, sucked the third down a hole and vapourised 1/3 of the unit the mages were in. Well worth its lack of use in the previous 4 games - I was helped here though by the comp rules. Not playing a Maneater Ogre army I perhaps have a stronger motivation to take it though.

  2. Very different in it's effects not only for the range but on the enemy. It's a terrifying prospect to face as a VC player however I'm not too fussed as a WoC player.

    The VC are entirely dependent on the general (who has to be wizard) as both caster and leader, while also usually having multiple expensive support wizards.

    While the WoC have the speed and resiliency to avoid the effects and the army can function without magic to an extent.

    It's best function as has been noted as it functions like a second dispel scroll effectively so long as you can get at least one enemy wizard in range.

  3. I used it a lot with ogres and I always found it was often subject to Murphy’s law. The times when you’d saved it till T4 needing the 2+ it doesn’t come up or the time you don’t really need it and you need to pop the 6 it happens.