So, the next hardback for Age of Sigmar has been released. What we all want to know – is it any good?
I may be able to save some of you a bit of time here. If you are the sort of gent who skips the background sections of a Codex to go straight to the crunchy bits, you won’t like this book (in fact, as things stand, you probably won’t like the whole game, but I digress!).
Quest for Ghal Maraz is a campaign book much in the same vein as the Age of Sigmar hardback. However, it is much more of a heavyweight in terms of content.
It describes a campaign (actually, five of them, but they are all linked to one degree or another) covering the quest for Sigmar’s hammer, the aforementioned Ghal Maraz. Why has Sigmar lost his weapon? Well, to cut a long story short, there was a bit of a barney on the Age of Chaos (long before the ‘current’ timeline of Age of Sigmar which is in the Age of, well, Sigmar), and Sigmar was blatting every hard Chaos daemon that popped up. When Archaon appeared, however, Sigmar didn’t fancy engaging him in close combat and so flung his hammer at the guy, missed, and the hammer disappeared in a crack within reality. Sigmar throws his dummy out of the pram, retreats out of the Mortal Realms and then sulks for a long, long time.
Could happen to anyone, really.
As it turns out, the hammer travelled to the Chamon (Realm of Metal) where a Tzeentch sorcerer got his hands on it and started using the artefact’s power. This was discovered by one of the Stormcast Eternal commanders and so the quest for retrieving the hammer begins.
As a whole, the book is much lighter on nuts and bolts information such as force organisation than its predecessor, though it does include the intriguing chart above. You tend to skip over tables like this but, with Games Workshop, it is usually worth a second look. We have seen how the Stormhosts have been organised before, but some new units/organisations have crept into this one – just what is a Command Temple, eh? I have yet to find the answer in this book – it may be buried within the text, but I would not count on it. Games Workshop do like to release information a bit at a time.
The artwork on the right hand side also catches the eye, and is a campaign map similar to those in the last hardback. This one depicts an area in the Realm of Metal and as you can see, Age of Sigmar is becoming very, very high fantasy, a big departure from the grittier Old World. I know that will turn some people off, but I quite like the change (regular readers here will know I am quite into the dark ‘low’ fantasy as well, as the Enemy Within campaign demonstrates).
Oh, and that big silvery worm? That is an actual dragon. A very, very big one. And yes, that is a river of silver cascading down from one island to the next and forming a river.
More Time of War rules are included, not just for Realms but for specific areas within Realms. So, the rules on the right hand side cover battles fought in the Hanging Valleys of Anvrok. A little later in the book, you get Time of War rules for a specific area within those same valleys themselves…
If you are of a critical mind (and why not, eh?) you might have to try hard to ignore the left hand page in that photo, which details the same Storm of Sigmar rules (daemon summoning and Sigmar’s rain – is that a euphemism?) that are found in the last hardback. We’ll come back to that point in a minute…
The Blighted Realm is one of the campaigns, charting the progress of the Stormcasts within the Realm of Life (Ghyran) and following on from the story in the War Storms novel. Nurgle is a big feature here, as are Pestilens Skaven. You will find Great Unclean Ones, Verminlords and a Chaos horn that is bringing everything low with its braying. Speaking of which, Beastmen are a big thing in this Realm.
The campaigns are more detailed in this book as compared to the previous hardback, with more campaign maps, battlescrolls and character descriptions (even the Branchwraith warrants her own section). This is very much a characteristic of these books – if you are looking for lots and lots of new units, these books will not be your thing. If you want to know what is happening in the Mortal Realms and then following that on your tabletop, you are going to find hours of use from these parts of the book – first in the reading, then the playing of the scenarios, then the making of your own games as your narrative goes through all sorts of twists and turns, inspired either by the text, the novels, or the results of your own games.
I am liking it a lot.
There is no grand ‘hobby section’ in this book, but there are bits and pieces dotted throughout. In the Realm of Life section, for example, you have this guide to painting Nurgle warriors. Your mileage might vary on the usefulness of this but as I am about to embark on a Nurgle force (and not having done a Nurgle model before in my life), I quite appreciated it!
This is one Battlescroll from the Realm of Life, covering an attack on Pupa Grotesse, a massive daemon of Nurgle that is spewing filth into the surrounding land. One of the things that makes this one interesting is that it takes place on two battlefields at once – one covering the ground attack and the other representing the ‘sky’ battlefield. As with all other Battlescrolls, it is easily adjusted to other forces, Realms and campaigns, and I am looking forward to giving this one a whirl.
Speaking of looking forward to things, this is a battlescroll from the Realm of Metal – and yes, it has the Chaos fortress that is appearing next week (if I recall correctly). Oh, wallets across the land are going to weep when that thing appears but as it is accompanied by a book which, presumably, includes lots of ways to use it in Age of Sigmar, it might actuall ybe a good investment on an hour vs. Sterling graph.
We’ll have to see!
Not to spoil anything, but Sigmar gets his hammer back – and is now preparing to launch the War for the Allpoints, a kind of nexus of Realmgates. That will be in Book Two, I would say.
This is a 240 page full colour hardback and, Time of War pages aside, it is page 188 before we get a whiff of actual rules – like I said, if crunch is your main interest, this book may not be for you.
It kicks off with lots of Warscrolls and the first thing we notice… they are the same Warscrolls as in the last hardback. And the starter set.
They have added units that have been released since, so the Stormcasts have all their Paladin variants, and the Goretide has their Exalted Deathbringer (coming out later this week!). And I can see why GW have done this – it keeps everything in one place and the page ‘tax’ to do so is relatively low. However, I just know that will set some people off who will accuse GW of being lazy.
Do they have a point?
Well, I can see why they did it. And let me say now that right at the end of this book is the four page core rules set, something else which is repeated. As far as the gamer is concerned, everything they need is kept in one place, and they only need to lug one book around. From GW’s point of view… well, they can now let the original hardback go out of print and feel absolutely no need to reprint it. By repeating certain sections (which, to be fair, do not take up that much space) any Age of Sigmar book is the core rulebook.
I kinda get that.
But I just know some people will take a very dim view of it.
As they say, you pays your money…
Anyway, back to it – as well as the Exalted Deathbringer and all the regular Khorne units we have seen before, the Wrathmongers have appeared as well. Not new models, sure, but through the campaigns (and the novels, incidentally) these are one of the units that are getting pushed front and centre for Khorne warbands.
The Skaven of Pestilens are up next, and include the Plague Priest, Plague Monks, Plague Furnace and the Verminlord Corruptor (but not the Plagueclaw, interestingly). Nurgle is next with the Glottkin (back from their demise in the End Times), Morbidex Twiceborn (so you know which Maggoth Lord to build if you are picking up the kit soon), the Lord of Plagues, Gutrot Spume, Putrid Blightkings and everyone’s favourite, the Nurglings. Oh, and there is a page for Chaos Spawn too.
Now, all of this is in the (free!) Age of Sigmar app (which is actually quite good and worth a look – it seems to be under continual development), but you cannot help but think they have been quite selective in which Warscrolls have gone into this book. The Sylvaneth are not here (fine, they are in the last hardback), and both Stormcasts and Khorne guys are here in their entirety. However, the Plagueclaw is not present for Pestilens (notable, as it is the only retail Skaven re-release not to appear) and the Nurgle section omits, of all things, Plaguebearers.
So, it is by no measure complete.
So you might be using print outs or the app anyway.
In which case, why are they in here?
They are very pretty, to be sure, and I enjoyed reading them. But actual utility? I have to admit, I am struggling here – there is a pattern to these Warscrolls/rules reprintings that I am just not smart enough to see at the moment…
Beyond the unit Warscrolls are those for battalions. There are some new things here, such as the Annihilation Brotherhood for Stormcasts, which sees a Lord-Relictor lead three mobs of Retributors into battle, and who can then demolish terrain pieces (!). There is a Vengeful Skullhunt for Khorne (Lord, Deathbringer, Bloodsecrator, Blood Warriors and Wrathmongers), with the rest going to Pestilens and Nurgle – the Pestilant Clawpack, Bringers of the Rotsmog, Blighted Warband, and Nurgle’s Deluge.
These are not free, either as download or on the app, but they can be added to the app for 79p each. Again, some people are going to complain about that but honestly… there is a huge amount in the app that is for free and 79p a throw is a small enough amount if you actually use the app in play. If you don’t, it won’t affect you anyway.
Beyond the battalions, you get the four page ruels set and, finally, the Dramatis Personae, which details the main players of the campaigns featured in the book.
So, is it any good?
Well, I think, overall, it is. It is certainly a step up from the previous hardback and if you were in two minds about that, go for this one. It is far meatier in terms of both background and gameplay, and the artwork is second to none. It is a very pretty book.
I think the biggest criticism that will be levelled at Quest for Ghal Maraz is the repetition of material. The inclusion of the four page rules I get, and the repeated Storm of Sigmar ruels in Time of War is understandable. The Stormcast Warscrolls, why not? They are the poster boys for the game, I understand why they are there.
Beyond that, it gets a little harder to understand what is going on. You have every Pestilens unit in there that you can buy in a retail store – except the Plagueclaw. And, thinking about it, I am pretty sure that Plague Priest is only available by mail order – but the Censer Bearers, also available by mail order only, are absent (though, thinking about it, a Plague Priest comes with the Furnace…).
At the end of the day, that is a minor quibble, and there is a good, solid 200 pages of material in this book that you will not have that issue with.
Should you buy Quest for Ghal Maraz?
If you are into Age of Sigmar, yes. I would wholeheartedly recommend it. If you have been on the fence, it may be worth a look. If you are dead set against the game, don’t bother – it will not convert you!