The first of the Battletomes for Age of Sigmar, covering Chaos Dreadholds, landed this weekend, so we ask the obvious questions: is it any good, and what do you get for your £20?
This book, alongside the newly released Dreadhold scenery pieces, promises to bring sieges and castle assaults to your tabletop. The Battletome itself (the first of presumably many – the Battletome covering the Stormcast Eternals has just been announced) is a mixture of background and rules, lore and scenarios, in the same vein as the previous two Age of Sigmar hardbacks. If you already have those two, you will feel very comfortable with Chaos Dreadhold.
The first thing you will notice upon opening the book is, as always, the artwork. Oddly, there has been some criticism of the artwork in Age of Sigmar on some of the forums but honestly… the artwork is just gorgeous and has raised the level on GW’s presentation even above that of Warhammer 40,000. The picture above, showing the Sylvaneth defending their realm from the Rotbringers, is far from unusual in either size of quality, and these pieces just ooze flavour.
The bulk of the book goes through various campaigns (tying into those already featured in the previous hardbacks, forming a consistent storyline), with the focus on battles involving Dreadholds. The first explores the campaign against the Rotbringers in the Realm of Life, with attention paid to Torglug the Despised.
Again, a lovely picture showing the path of the campaign forms the first step in this section, showing the Sylvaneth forces closing in on a Rotbringer fortress built around the Lifewell.
Each campaign has one or more scenarios, to make a total of four Battleplans in the book. The one pictured above sees the Rotbringers trying to hold the line (with the help of a Malefic Gate) against the Hallowed Knights while a magical gale (Storm of Magic!) howls over the battlefield. As has become usual, there are new Command Abilities (Battle cry and Weather the Storm), along with a new spell both sides can use.
Should be fun to try out!
I also wanted to highlight this battle, a fight that takes place between two fortresses in two different realms. It can be played on a single table, but there is a great opportunity to use two tables (have them in different rooms!), separated by a Realmgate. This really is a ‘bring all you can’ type of fight that can sprawl across tables, with the tide of battle swinging one way or the other across the Realmgate as both sides launch attacks on the opposing stronghold.
This will be a Battleplan we will be trying out as soon as we start acquiring more substantial Dreadholds (I have a single Skull Keep at the moment, need to start collecting more…).
Oh, and just to chip in, as well as being a really nice, colourful piece of art, this picture was the subject of a leak online that suggested Codex: Tzeentch Daemonkin and a new plastic Lord of Change were on their way. Doesn’t look like that is the case, as the picture has popped up in this book, but I would not mind a plastic Lord of Change myself – hope you are listening GW…
Finally, the Warscrolls, a lot of them – 12 in all, divided between the actual Dreadhold scenery pieces (Skull Keep, Overlord Bastion, Malefic Gate, and Fortress Wall), and the Battalion Warscrolls, or ‘castles’, as we shall call them.
Now, when the Dreadhold was announced, much was made of the price of the scenery and how you would need to spend £800+ to get a decent castle. That is really not the point.
To begin with, you can go far with a single Skull Keep (£45, will be posting it here once I get mine painted), and it is a feature of some of the Battleplans in the previous hardbacks. A nice bit of scenery, so why not, eh?
You can then, slowly, add more pieces to the Dreadhold as finances and painting time allow, and the Battalion Warscrolls have, I think, been very much designed to aid this process.
For example, start with a single Skull Keep. Add two more, and you can start using the Skullcovern Forge, a ‘formation’ of three Skull Keeps that will seriously boost your wizards during a battle. Alternatively, add just one more Skull Keep and two walls – this gives you an Ironskull Bastion which will make a perfectly convincing stronghold in the centre of a table for smaller games. Once you have that, add a single Overlord Bastion to make the Direstone Redoubt (these are shown in the picture above). And so on.
You can go silly, of course. The Malefic Dreadhold requires 4 Malefic Gates and an Overlord Bastion (not super, super expensive, though not exactly a monthly purchase either). These go together to make up a stronghold that will completely dominate a 6 x 4 table. That is £320 but, on the other hand, it is BIG and well shy of the £800+ that has been quoted elsewhere.
So, is Battletome: Chaos Dreadhold any good? Well, that will depend on where you are coming from;
If you did not like the style of the previous hardbacks: Avoid. If you are not enjoying GW’s method of presenting the Age of Sigmar, this book will not convert you. Pick the Warscrolls up online or from the box sets, as they contain everything you need to get playing.
If you did like the style of the previous hardbacks: I would recommend you pick this book up even if you have not got a Dreadhold. It continues the story of the campaigns covered in the previous books and just looks gorgeous. You’ll meet characters old and new, and get ideas for your own battles even if you do not use those in this book.
If you have a Chaos Dreadhold: Get this book. Get it now. Fighting over your new scenery will be fun, and the Battleplans in this book just ooze character. In that respect, this book is a force multiplier, increasing the enjoyment you get out of your Dreadhold. I would say the cross-Realm battle is worth the price of admission alone. Add to that, the Battalion Warscrolls will create a ‘purchase plan’, if you like, for your fortress, allowing you to start small but end up in a year or so with a truly massive castle that will be the scene of many, many memorable battles.
I have the plastic Mighty Fortress that GW released years ago, and it still sees use. However, a siege game is always a ‘special’ battle that requires preparation and forward planning. The Chaos Dreadhold is not like that – you can have your big castle assault games, sure, but the smaller fortresses and modular nature of the Dreadhold make it way more flexible than the old Mighty Fortress, and you can easily use it in more ‘casual’ games without upsetting the cart.
Overall Rating: Recommended.