Mat Ward - Orcs & Goblins

Well, you know the drill. We interviewed Graham McNeill about the Empire Army Book, and now we're putting the Orcs and Goblins under the spotlight. Enjoy!

Angron: Good Evening Mat.

Mat Ward: Evening.

General Helstrom: hi Mat, thanks for coming over.

Mat Ward: No probs.

Mat Ward: I can't promise to be interesting, mind...

General Helstrom: We'll manage!

Goofycabal: Hi Mat!

General Helstrom: Let's start off...

Goofycabal: As Admin of Da Warpath, biggest O&G forum, I'd like to get the ball rolling.

Goofycabal: What where your thoughts when you found out that you would be working on the 7th edition Orc and Goblin book?

Mat Ward: It's hard to remember, to be honest...

Mat Ward: ...but I had wanted to get a crack at it for a while: a lot of my early games of Warhammer were against O&G, and I guess they left a mark.

Mat Ward: A good one, that is.

Mat Ward: (apart from that one time with the Vampire with the Carstein Ring, and two Doom Diver impacts, of course.)

Goofycabal: Yeah, those Orcs do tend to leave a few marks!

Goofycabal: What was your favorite part on the new Orc and Goblin book to work on?

Goofycabal: What was the hardest part for you to work on?

Mat Ward: Hardest part? Keeping everyone happy - there's a lot of O&G players in the Studio and, of course, all of them with ideas they wanted to see in the book.

Mat Ward: Favourite part? Hard to say really, I enjoy a bunch of the aspects of army book design, but I guess the creation of some decent magic 'itty sticks for the greenskins would be up there.

General Helstrom: Do you think O&G army list is a competitive army list for high-level tournament, despite its randomness?

Mat Ward: I think so - the trick to randomness is it really does pay off at both the good and bad ends over time. It can be a little annoying when three bad things happen at once (why do they do that?), but the moment when three good things happen all at once (normally involving 6's and animosity) is even better for the anticipation.

Mat Ward: I think there are definately some elements more competitive than others in the book, but its supposed to cater to die-hard tournamenters, and a more casual style of play

Goofycabal: How did you come up with the Waaagh! rules, and what are your thoughts on how the new rules change the tactics of Orc and Goblin players?

Mat Ward: Credit for the Waaagh! rules mostly goes to the Studio Greenskins who nagged and nagged until they got one - of course, I couldn't give them exactly what they wanted - it wouldn't be Orcses without a downside in there somewhere!

Mat Ward: The difference I hope it makes is to push those big ol' units of Orc boyz back to the top of gamers' lists - they've always been the core of the army from a background point of view, but have often been overshadowed. With this, and other changes, I'd hope they're back.

General Helstrom: What was the hardest part of the army book to get balanced?

Mat Ward: Probably the Waaagh! rule - or from a different point of view, the space/rules ratio of Goblin Fanatics.

General Helstrom: "Space" as in pages in the book?

Mat Ward: Yup - I'm not a big fan of two pages of rules for one 25mm, 30 point model!

Mat Ward: They said it couldn't be done, naysayers all.

General Helstrom: This focus on simple rules seems to be the new trend in army books - is it being planned for future books as well?

Mat Ward: By and large simplicity is good - it allows us to concentrate on getting things balanced and, of course, shorter FAQs - so yes, we're trying keep things as accessible as possible, but without removing any of the fun at the heart of the game.

Eldacar: A question relating to the O&G background: How long do Greenskins live?

Mat Ward: I'm not sure any of them get the chance to find out before they die in battle, so who knows?

Angron: The overall theme of the new book seems to be "Offensive above all else". However the multiple chariots for the same slot were removed. How come?

Mat Ward: In all honesty, to encourage selection of the other snazzy special units which sometimes go unnoticed.

Mat Ward: **mutters at not having brought an army book home with him to reference in the chat**

Mat Ward: Chariots, for me, are an odd one, as they're devastating in some situations - dead meat in others. The only real justification in my mind for reducing chariot numbers is to encourage real regiments, which is what was done here.

Mat Ward: I think that made sense when I typed it, now I'm not so sure...

Angron: Nah I think we get it.

General Helstrom: The points raise for Boar Boyz may seem strange to some. Can you elaborate on this?

Mat Ward: There's a general feeling that heavy cavalry rules the roost in Warhammer, and we wanted to start rebalancing them on a case-by-case basis. With the changes to rank bonus, small units of Boar Boyz are now more efficient, so the points cost shouldn't hurt too much.

Mat Ward: I'm rationalising, of course, to stop people lynching me for the change, but I'm confident their points cost is correct for their potential!

Goofycabal: With that in mind: Although the list seems to encourage the 'mixed horde', was there much effort put into making sure themed armies weren't missing out? (Such as All Goblin hordes, etc)

Mat Ward: It's always there, and always in consideration. In some ways, the Goblins made out like bandits in this new version. The Little Waaagh! is one of the best lores in the game, and there are plenty of new magic items to really, really, tee your opponent off. Against that, the loss of two extra Heroes at 2k points (which breaks a fairly fundamental rule of Warhammer) for example, is an acceptable trade in my mind.

Mat Ward: In fairness, I did want to make Doomdivers 2 for 1 slot, but it just wasn't balanced : )

General Helstrom: How about the inclusion of special characters in the "regular" army, what are your thoughts on that?

Mat Ward: For years, we've had the slighty peculiar situation where some of the best models we release didn't get used in games - which is a bit bonkers, if you think about it. Let's face it, if you spend your time and money getting Skarsnik to look just right, you want to field him in your games without feeling slightly dirty, or as if your opponent is winning the moral victory by letting you. So I think it's a good thing, provided we control the points cost and, well, epoch-ending fury of each character.

General Helstrom: A question on continuity from the Empire crowd - did you realise you can end up with two Solland runefangs on the same battlefield?

Mat Ward: Uh-oh, sounds like a 'who would win? Doctor Doom or Darth Vader' question...

Mat Ward: ...the answer is, of course, yes - but only if you're playing with anachronistic characters!

Mat Ward: Helborg and Gorbad, in fact.

Mat Ward: Oh, and my money's on Doctor Doom, for the record...

Helstrom roots for Darth Vader

Goofycabal: Another one on characters: Was there a reason behind dropping the term 'Common' from Goblins? In a few instances in the rules this seems to cause a bit of confusion for players (Goblin character mounts, for example).

Mat Ward: In theory there are no 'Common' Goblins, just Goblins - it's one of those situations where being a bit more faithful to the background creates potential problems in the game - a situation not helped by the new army list layout, I'll grant.

General Helstrom: would you say that infantry-oriented armies are the trend for 7th Edition?

Mat Ward: I think it's too early to tell - I hope so...

Mat Ward: At the same time, I don't believe any other troop type has suffered - infantry have just been raised to equality.

General Helstrom: to tie in, is there an established over-arching design strategy for 7th Ed army books?

Mat Ward: now that's a spiky question : )

Mat Ward: There is, but it's no more complex than you'd expect. Basically to reinvigorate and rebalance where necessary, and to keep things both fun and fair.

Mat Ward: of course, it's never that simple, but I like to pretend it is!

Angron: So, nothing like 'Let's look into more infantry' or 'Get rid of HeroHammer'?

Mat Ward: I'm not sure Herohammer really exists anymore - except in armies where it should. I want to be afraid of what a Bloodthirster will do to my army. It's a daemon, after all. If a unit of infantry needs raising up a bit (like some do) we'll do it, if it's fine (as many are) we won't.

Mat Ward: I know that probably sounds like a dodge, but it's also true!

Eldacar: Oh, I don't know that it's much of a dodge. Bloodthirsters ARE scary!

TheeForsakenOne: Poison shots solve all.

Goofycabal: Sounds reasonable to me :)

Goofycabal: On rasing infantry effectiveness: The new rules for Choppas are fairly nasty. What was the reasoning behind this?

Mat Ward: I'm a believer in rules being worth noticing, or getting deleted - and I'm scared of Orc players who might hurt me if the choppa went away. This way, everyone wins - I don't get lynched, Orc Boyz are now really good, and the rule is nice and clear.Admittedly, the sap getting hit with the choppa may disagree, but someone always has to lose, and that's what Dwarfs are for!

Goofycabal: "The only good stunty is a dead Stunty" eh?

Mat Ward: Or one who can lead you to 'is mates!

General Helstrom: Here's something else: does it bother you when people complain online about some design decisions?

Mat Ward: the answer to that is somewhere between no and yes. It's a hobby, and it's good that people feel strongly about it, but perhaps a little worrying when they feel so strongly that they get, well, a mite agitated. It's probably worth mentioning at this point that we're really not organised enough to sort out a good conspiracy...

Mat Ward: least, not yet, but I have high hopes for my latest brainwashing device and a prototype hive mind inducer!

Mat Ward: Sorry, I think I was rambling!

Mat Ward: I think people's opinions are important, and I understand the frustrations quite well - although about different subjects - so I try not to create frustration if possible.

General Helstrom: Ok, just for our sake - which warhammer player sites do you look at?

Mat Ward: I don't much, to be honest - I've never been much for forums, truth be told - mostly because I'm really a very lazy person with bursts of utter idleness.

General Helstrom: funny, that's my reason for being on forums in the first place :)

Eldacar: Bringing it back to the realm of rules questions :) - Spider Riders were made permanent fast cavalry with the new book. Could you explain the reasoning behind it?

Mat Ward: Sorry, define permanent if you would ?

Goofycabal: In that the unit always counts as Fast Cavalry.

Goofycabal: I think it's in regards to their equipment selection. Don't have the book handy myself either!

Mat Ward: Under the principle of eight legs is better than four, it made sense that they'd be fast cav - and as they'd not been around properly since the fast cavalry rule came in, all seemed good.

Mat Ward: It's true they might compete a little with Wolf Riders, but as they're both Core, there's no reason not to take a little of both - although in reality, most people will prefer one or the other.

General Helstrom: Something different: May we ask I you are working on something WHFB related at the moment?

Mat Ward: I am, but they might come for me with axes if I say what. I'd love to tell you, because it's a lot of fun to write, but I can't quite get those axes out of my mind!

General Helstrom: best keep them there instead of in your back then :)

Mat Ward: ask me again in six months - I should be able to be more forthcoming then

General Helstrom: Is it hard switching between different systems (WHFB/LOTR) when designing/writing?

Mat Ward: it's more refreshing, to be hones. While I've only a few Warhammer books (and currently no k ones) to my name, I do odd-job quite a bit around systems, and sometimes others things entirely. It's for the best really, as I tend to get bored with routine - although I do perhaps get a little dizzy from time to time!

Angron: Why was it made possible for a 110pt Goblin to beat up Archaon?

Mat Ward: Last time I checked, a 95 point Battle Wizard could beat up Archaon, so that puts me points clear of the running. Archaon will just have to learn to not have unfair fights - or kill the Goblin first : )

Goofycabal: Non rules question then: Do you play Greenskins yourself? If so, what kind of army structure do you prefer?

Mat Ward: I don't have a Greenskin army, but when putting forces together for playtesting I tend to favour an infantry horde with the mandatory Doomdivers and Squigs.

Goofycabal: Gotta have Doomdivers and Squigs!

Mat Ward: Now, if they could somehow be combined...

Eldacar: Doomdivers mounted on Squigs.

Eldacar: Scary thought.

General Helstrom: you could have brought back the squig catapult!

Goofycabal: The ultimate warmachine!

Goofycabal: Back to the list itself again: Can you say anything on why Light armour was made into the starting equipment for Goblins, rather than a shield?

Mat Ward: Simply because that actually matches the models (same with the wolf riders). It would have been changed sooner or later, for clarity, so I figured there was no time like the present!

Angron: Which Greenskin do you prefer; Orcs, Goblins or, Mork Forbid; snotlings?

Mat Ward: As a Troop type, courtesan, or entree?

Eldacar: ...courtesan?

General Helstrom: I prefer mine mounted above the fireplace!

Angron: I like mine hot, strong... hold on, wrong conversation.

TheeForsakenOne: That's a somewhat disturbing image.

Angron: Erm, as anything really.

Mat Ward: 1) Orcs 2) I'm not sure I want to think about it 3) Snotling.

General Helstrom: Would you like to do some K designing as well?

Mat Ward: In the fullness of time - I've got my eye on a couple of projects, but we'll have to see how that goes.

Eldacar: No hints, I guess, or are the axes still in your mind?

Mat Ward: 'fraid so - I keep suggesting we should just have employment contracts or something, but the company's a bit old fashioned like that.

Mat Ward: Again, ask me again in six months - you never know...

Angron: Several people fear that the comedy element of the O&G army is slowly being ebbed out of the game. What are your thoughts on this?

Mat Ward: Comedy... I've been accused of writing the only funny Warhammer army book for awhile (which I think is a little unfair as some of my bestiary entries in the Bretonnian army book were probably worse, in that respect). I'd say the O&G comedy is here to stay, the trick is that it's, well, brutal funny, not clown shoes funny, and that's a difficult balance to strike.

Mat Ward: that's not to say that clown shoes don't have their place, but that place is generally on clowns, not big, savage killing machines!

Goofycabal: So not quite so Slapstick then?

General Helstrom: Greenskins are inherently funny though!

Mat Ward: It's just a balance, some slapstick can work, but not if it's everywhere.

Mat Ward: The real test of something funny is if someone laughs out loud when they read it - slapstick often doesn't work that way in print, but more subtle forms do.

Angron: We've seen news of impending releases for various armies for the Nemesis Crown campaign this summer. Are there any plans to revisit the O+G armies and give them some nice things too, namely the Azhag model that's leaked all over the net?

Mat Ward: There's some stuff coming, but I must confess to being a bit hazy on the specifics - Andy Hoare's been the driving force behind the Nemesis campaign, so I'll unashamedly have to duck that one (sorry!)

Angron: Don't worry, I'll just hunt you down and kill you instead.

Mat Ward: many have tried - I still have their ears in a jar (somewhere)...

Mat Ward: ...or is that pasta?

Mat Ward: ...I'm not saying anything, because I don't know: not knowing, cannot say. It's a point of principal that I only pass on info I know to be true - it's hardly fair on you guys otherwise.

Angron: I think everyone would agree that's the best outlook to have.

TheeForsakenOne: Yeah, I think you're more likely to get lynched for bad information than no information!

Goofycabal: So no hints on new lists? (like the 'Ard Boyz)

Mat Ward: You'll not be seeing a new list - there's a lifetime of collecting in the one we've got, to my mind.

Goofycabal: Indeed. Back to things you do know about then: With the focus on infantry, why were Big Unz increased in points?

Mat Ward: Mostly because the combination of Strength 4 base + Choppa bonus is a fearful thing to behold. As a secondary consideration, I'd rather folks were taking Black Orcs as their elite infantry, so the points comparison had to be completely fair. That's not to say I think we overcharged Big 'Uns, quite the opposite.

Mat Ward: They're where they should be, as far as my experiences have shown, anyway.

Angron: What style of play do you prefer; story based campaigns, or tournaments?

Mat Ward: Given the choice? the former - tournaments can be a little intense for my tastes.

General Helstrom: Here's something more general: How is playtesting done these days? In house or external, or both?

Mat Ward: it's a mix of both - many eyes find more errors, and so on...

Eldacar: A question on the Snotlings - Can you explain why they were given LD4 and Stubborn? It looks a bit odd as a mix.

Mat Ward: the background for Snotlings has always been one of eagerness, rather than of competence - this comination of rules gives them a good chance of sticking around (particularly with a BSB nearby) regardless of whether they've lost be 1 or . If they're of a mind, the little greenies'll stick around and fight wiv da uvvers, but maybe not.

Mat Ward: Way back when, they used to mimic an Orc unit - while it stayed, they stayed - this gets to a similar place (probabilities wise) but in a simpler fashion.

TheeForsakenOne: Ah, the old 5th ed Snotlings.

Mat Ward: It could be worse - they used to be Strength and Toughness 1!

Goofycabal: True.

Goofycabal: The Great Cave Squig is a great idea - where'd you get the inspiration for it? (But why can't it join regular Squig Hopper units?)

Mat Ward: in order...?

Mat Ward: 1) one of the Studio Greenskins, and 2) Can you imagine trying to write the rules for moving two seperate but interconnected random move units, and where the model gets placed? I chose cowardice, and I have no regrets!

Goofycabal: So its not due to the rule about characters and joining units affected by compulsory movement?

Mat Ward: Not primarily, because special rules always contradict main rules, it goes back to simplicity and avoiding an FAQ list as long as your arm.

General Helstrom: how about "armed to da teef" - it doesn't actually seem to add anything to the rules already in the core rulebook?

Mat Ward: It's a bridge between WYSIWYG and the current model range - if we were ever to do plastic Black Orcs, they'd have to do all the options from the same kit and this would cover it, while not invalidate anyone's existing miniatures.

Editor's Note; At the time of going to press, the Plastic Black Orcs had not been released, though their sprues had been splashed across the internet.

Goofycabal: So there was no intention to let them change weapons during the combat then?

Mat Ward: And guarantee the great weapon on the charge, followed by add-hw after, combo?

General Helstrom: Fair enough!

Goofycabal: Good point!

Angron: Ok, it's getting late for everyone (apart from the Aussies, where it's getting earlier), so we'll wrap this up with a broad final question.

Angron: Where do you see the hobby going in the near future, and do you have any wishes in this regard?

Mat Ward: That is a broad question - and I'm not sure I have a very specific answer...

Mat Ward: Warhammer's really gathering strength at the moment, and we've been lucky enough to go back polish a lot of favourite races (and more on the immediate list). I honestly don't think that the outlook's ever been better for Warhammer players, and long may it continue, as far as I'm concerned - I've been playing this game for 15-odd years now, and I expect to be playing it for at least another 15.

Angron: So, I think that's it from us.

Mat Ward: If you're sure : )

General Helstrom: You studio guys seem to have a lot more stamina than us :)

TheeForsakenOne: Must be all the overtime designing armies that gives them the stamina :P

Angron: Well, we'd all like to thank you for your time and patience with us. It's been fantastic to hear your insights and general answers. On behalf of the on-line communities as a whole, I think we'd like to thank you for all your hard work and efforts for the hobby, too.

Mat Ward: if you keep playing, I daresay we'll keep writing/sculpting!

Goofycabal: Thanks again on behalf of the Greenskin players, who've been itching to hear what you have to say!

Mat Ward: you're welcome - I hope it's at least a little helpful : )

Angron: Thanks to Ric for helping out on the technical side, and all the Ops for staying up late (or waking up early) to make this work!

TheeForsakenOne: Thanks for chatting with us Mat. Tell all the other designers how great it was and encourage (or intimadate them) to chat with us too!

Mat Ward: I can't intimidate them - they're all big and scary!

Mat Ward: Well, Adam's not...

Mat Ward: But the rest are!

Goofycabal: Tell them how fun it was then!

Mat Ward: Yes, I'll try that route!

Angron: I've ALSO been asked to say;

Angron: "Hi from the guys at GW Thurrock. Cheers for a great book that has kept new gamers entertained, old gamers refreshed, and has been a general fav amoung the staff. Monday nights for Fantasy! Come down and let us cleave your head off (Or, your army General, if you'd prefer to delegate in a challenge.)"

Mat Ward: message received : )

Well, another Games Workshop Designer, another success. Stay tuned, we're not done yet!

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