GW’s warehouse in the UK has been a little slow of late and so I was a little surprised when the brand new Battletome: Stormcast Eternals turned up this morning – the second Battletome for Age of Sigmar, and the first of what people will no doubt call the army books.
So, we must now ask ourselves the question – is it any good?
One thing I can say straight away – if you are not keen on the Stormcast Eternals, you are not going to get on with this title (why did you even click on this review, eh?). It is all about the Sigmarines and if they irritate you, this book will just irritate you more. Go read something else, life is too short.
Still with me? Good, we can now begin…
Well, it is pricier than the Chaos Dreadholds Battletome (£35 vs. £20), but also a lot meatier, weighing in at 152 pages – a little under two thirds of the big Realmgate Wars hardbacks.
One of the first things you will notice on opening the book, as with all Age of Sigmar titles, is all the full page and double page spread artwork. And as always, it really is beyond reproach. Throughout the book, it covers a variety of Stormhosts in a variety of Realms, fighting a variety of enemies. Wherever you are setting your battles, you are going to find some inspiration here.
The Battletome starts with the background material, which makes up about half the book, give or take and if you include the story pages preceding each Battleplan. A quick introduction to who and what the Stormcasts are and why Sigmar is such a big deal leads into how Chaos took over the Mortal Realms and the battles that took place in the ‘First Storm’. You will have seen these bite-size battle descriptions before (in a similar vein to 40k’s timelines), but this one is spread across four pages, starting with the Gates of Azyr and finishing on The Allpoints (as hinted at in the Quest for Ghal Maraz hardback).
The next section, Forces of the Stormhosts, goes into detail on the organisation of the Stormcasts, including their training and formations, with the appropriate space given for creating your own Stormhosts in your own colours. Peppered around here are box texts detailing specific heroes of the Stormcasts, who will be familiar to anyone who has been keeping up to date with the novels (such as Lord-Celestant Zephacleas, from the Ghal Maraz novel – a book worth picking up if you liked War Storm, incidentally).
Each of the different types of Stormcast get their own page, detailing who they are and what function they perform in the Stormhosts – such as the Knight-Heraldor and Knight-Vexillor pictured above.
What may be interesting to those painting one of the ‘official’ Stormhosts are these pages, covering the colour schemes and iconography of each. I took a snap of my guys, the Hallowed Knights, but there are full spreads for the Hammers of Sigmar and the Celestial Vindicators, and four pages dedicated to less famous Stormhosts, including a few we have not seen before such as the Sons of the Storm (white and turquoise), Fists of Sigmarite (gold and black), and the Ghyran Guard (gold and green, and these guys really hate Nurgle), among others.
The Call of Thunder is the ‘hobby’ section which is packed full of photos, both of single models, scenes and double page spreads. Frankly, if you don’t get inspired to kick some Chaos rear after paging through this area, you probably aren’t Stormcast material! Go be a Duardin or something.
Oh, and the Knight-Heraldor? He ain’t looking down his trumpet, that is just the angle of the camera. It goes to his mouth, as it should.
The War of Vengeance is the section where all the Battleplans lie, and so will be the start of the ‘meat’ for some readers. It kicks off with an explanation of the Realmgate Wars, and the first attacks in the Realm of Fire (as covered by the starter set and first hardback). There is a repeat of the map of the Brimstone Peninsula here – a bit naughty, but it does tie directly into the first Battleplan, called Lightning Strikes. It is basically a Deep Strike-based battle, but it provides an alternate take on the first attacks of the Stormcasts (incidentally, not the first time Age of Sigmar has done this – the Cast Adrift Battleplan in Quest for Ghal Maraz and Quest’s End in Chaos Dreadholds are two different takes on the same battle).
Still going to be trying it out though.
The next is set in the Realm of Life and is entitled Against the Horde – which is pretty much going to do what it says on the tin! The enemy player (as opposed to Stormcast player though, like all Battleplans, you can play with any combination of forces) gets a free unit every turn, so expect waves upon waves to come crashing down as the Stormcast try to pick out the general – it is suggested the general be a Great Unclean One!
Remember what I said about Cast Adrift and Quest’s End covering the same battle? Well, in this book, we now have a third! The next Battleplan, Retrieve the Relic, covers the retrieval of Ghal Maraz from a fortress. This one is a bit more ‘generalised’ and less reliant on floating islands or truly massive fortresses. So, you get to play the storylines biggest and most important (so far) battle according to your own collection and terrain.
I might be a bit charitable there, but these Battleplans are not ‘locked’ into the setting and really can be used for similar events elsewhere if you are chasing your own narrative.
On page 112, we come to the Warscroll collection, which is probably going to be the most used part of the book.
I have had a look through, and I cannot see any changes from Warscrolls that have come before, and if you have any of the previous books plus recent White Dwarfs, then you have all the War Scrolls featured here (the Knights-Heraldor and -Vexillor pictured above will be appearing in next week’s White Dwarf).
A waste, then? I don’t think so, but I’ll come back to that.
There are some new Warscroll Battalions, and here is the odd thing – they haven’t repeated Battalions that have appeared in the past. Which kind of spanners what I was about to say about the Warscrolls.
You see, I have a battle coming this afternoon, and I can see that it is very attractive to have everything in one place (yes, I could use the App, I know – still haven’t quite got used to it yet), without having folders, books, and print outs lying around. And you can – so long as you don’t use, say, the Annihilation Brotherhood from Quest for Ghal Maraz.
It is a minor quibble, but I might have said that if they were going to include everything, then make sure it is everything. Yes, someone would have complained about reprinting information, but if you are going to do that for Stormcasts, then surely this is the book to do it in…
Anyway, there are six ‘core’ Warscroll Battaltions;
Lords of the Storm: Basically a collection of all the heroes (replaces Heroes of the Host).
Thunderhead Brotherhood: Liberators and Judicators, makes them all a bit more resilient.
Hammerstrike Force: Retributors and Prosecutors.
Vanguard Wing: Prosecutors and Liberators, where the Liberators get a great deal more mobility.
Devastation Brotherhood: Paladins and Prosecutors, as per Quest for Ghal-Maraz.
Wardens of the Realmgate: This is an interesting one – A Lord-Castellant, Protectors, Liberators, and a Realmgate. Re-roll saves when close to the Realmgate, plus get an inexhaustible supply of reinforcements…
Those are the ‘core’ battaltions. You then get three, lets call them, ‘mega’ battalions – Warscroll Battaltions made up of smaller Warscroll Battalions.
The first is the Warrior Chamber, containing the Lords of the Storm, 3 (!) Thunderhead Brotherhoods and 3 Hammerstrike Forces. That could be quite a few models, but you get Lightning (Deep) Strike, plus while you have at least 50 models, everyone wounds their enemy a little better.
The Harbinger Chamber features the Lords of the Storm, plus three Vanguard Wings. Lightning Strike again (all Chambers get this) and they add +1 to all hit rolls.
Finally, as pictured above, the Exemplar Chamber, which will be the real heavy hitters. Start hurting them and they get more Attacks.
Then there is a reprint of the four page rules set.
Conclusion: Having everything in one place (and, for that reason, I do not begrudge the reprinting of the core rules at all) is very nice, despite the odd missing Battalion. Is it £35 nice? Hmm. Well, kit has to be appreciated that, despite their relative youth, the Stormcasts do have a lot of units to cover, both in terms of rules and background. And I always like more Battleplans.
Actually, who am I kidding? If you are big into the Stormcasts, you are going to be picking this book up anyway. If they are not your thing, you are not going to pick this up any more than you would a random Codex.
For my part, I don’t regret having it on my shelf at all, and having everything in one place is a big plus. However, I think it will be the second Realmgate Wars hardback that really starts propelling the story on further, and that is the one I am waiting for…