The new Bloodbound book for Age of Sigmar plopped itself on my desk yesterday, and I spent the evening going through it. So, we come to that eternal question – is it any good?
My overall feeling is that GW are steadily improving their Age of Sigmar books, and I would say this is the best one yet. There is a caveat to that – I do have rather a large Bloodbound army myself, so a vested interest is present…
It is a nice big book, equivalent to the Stormcasts Battletome or Codex: Eldar, so there is a nice heft to it.
And as with all Age of Sigmar books, the artwork is second to none. In this one, the Hallowed Knights (another force of mine) are about to get smacked in the face by some really angry people.
The Dreadhold pops up as well – this one within some nightmarish underground cavern doing a good impression of Hell.
The first part of the book, as with the other two Battletomes, is dedicated to background or ‘fluff’ as it is sometimes called. I would be of the opinion that the background text in Age of Sigmar is at least as important as any of its other components. We all know the 40k (or Fantasy Battle) player who collects and army and plays the game, but does not really read the background section of his own army book, much less anything else. I don’t think Age of Sigmar is going to work too well for that kind of player. To me, the whole point of Age of Sigmar is the background, and how it becomes reflected on the tabletop.
So, we get a page on the Bloodbound, explaining who they are (and the fact that they are quite up for a fight against the Stormcasts!), and another on Khorne himself, going into why he is so angry all the time. Then we get into the meat of it.
There are sections on the history of the Bloodbound as they appeared in the Age of Chaos, what it means to be Bloodbound (it is not all blood and gore, you know!), how Lord Khul rose to power, and what the Goretide are planning to do (aside from giving Vandus Hammerhand a right shoeing at some point in the future).
There are two double page spreads that, as with the Stormcasts’ Battletome and every 40k Codex, show what battles the Bloodbound have been involved in. There are lots of snippets here that are just begging for GW writers or players to expand upon in their own games, and I have a feeling we will be revisiting some of the things mentioned here; they will become part of the Age of Sigmar lore, much as the Horus Heresy or Badab War are for 40k.
Here’s an example;
‘Beneath the Luminary Spires of Daedendrill, the Crimson Fury charged headlong into the legendary Cannonade of Korsh. Thousands fell gladly in bloody tribute to Khorne, eventually choking the guns with their mangled bodies.’
A fight against the Duardin (Dwarfs)? Does the name Korsh indicate a naming convention that will be followed for something later? Absolutely no idea, but I have a feeling it will come to make sense in the future!
Also mentioned is something called the Blood Times, when Khorne and his minions turned against the other Chaos Gods. That had to be a fun time for any worshipper of Khorne…
Every unit within the Bloodbound gets a page or two, describing what it does and how it functions. What is of particular interest here (and was impossible with the Stormcasts’ book for obvious reasons) is that it goes into detail on some familiar faces from the World That Was. Basically, we get to see what some favoured characters are up to now in the Mortal Realms. Valkia the Bloody (now known in some parts as the Gorequeen, she seems to be acquiring titles) now rules a volcanic stronghold called Mount Ashenfel (within the Realm of Chaos) and leads a combined Bloodbound and daemonic force on regular slaughters when not engaging in ‘phantom battles’ within the tunnels and chambers below Ashenfel. She has been seriously elevated in Khorne’s eyes and now pretty much rules her domain in his name.
More depth is also given to the new units that have recently appeared – for example, just reading White Dwarf, you don’t get too much of a feeling for the Slaughterpriest and Skullgrinder. Here, you will learn about their function within the Bloodbound horde as a whole, and why they do what they do on the battlefield. In fact, all through this section, there is an emphasis that while these guys do follow the Blood God, they need not be purely mindless killers (something reinforced by some of the recent Age of Sigmar fiction from the Black Library).
Quite liked this picture too, a Lord of Khorne steering his massive Juggernaut towards the enemy with everyone around crying out ‘Blood for the Blood God!’
A painting guide is included, with a focus on Lord Khul’s Goretide and a new force, the Skullfiend Tribe. However, ‘lesser’ Bloodbound forces are also covered to show variant paint schemes – the Flayed are an interesting choice, with an unusual ivory colour to their armour. Not what you typically expect for Khorne, but the variation is nice. Each of these new forces gets a snippet of background for you to build upon should you choose to do them (remember, the old Space Marine chapters used to be just a single picture in the Rogue Trader rulebook, and look at them today – from a single picture an entire book or three may grow in the future…).
There are three Battleplans in this book, and the forces they portray are showing Age of Sigmar becoming a little more diverse. All Battleplans can be used with all forces, of course, but there is always a background history behind them to form part of an ongoing narrative – if you have any of the other books, you know what I am talking about. What is interesting about these is whom the Bloodbound are being set up to fight. There is one against the Stormcasts, which has to be fair enough at this point in the Age of Sigmar schedule, but the first is against Mannfred’s Undead and the next against a force of Ogors. It is nice to see some of the other forces getting a look in (even if it will be a good long while before I get round to collecting models for them – then again, it is not as if I don’t have enough to be getting on with!).
Relentless Assault sees the Bloodbound (or any other force, remember) face an endless horde, comprising three waves of attacks. Clash of Heroes is a general vs. general type of battle, where a Khorne Hero is trying to prove he has the right to lead the Bloodbound. Finally, Reclaim the Fallen sees the Bloodbound trying to recover the limp form of Lord Khul after his little ‘incident’ with Vandus Hammerhand. This one uses objectives and, if I get the time, I might model some Khorne Heroes lying dead on top of a pile of dead enemies…
The last third-odd of the book is dedicated to hard rules – which means Warscrolls! In terms of units and characters, there is nothing here that you have not seen in past books, White Dwarf, or downloaded for free from GW’s web site when the pre-orders go up. However, with the number of characters the Bloodbound have accumulated over the past weeks, having them all in one place is a definite plus.
There are a selection of Battalion Warscrolls as well, including the multi-Battalion Warscroll idea that first appeared in the Stormcasts book. This time round, it is for the Bloodbound Horde, a complete army for Khorne (seriously, you deploy this and you don’t need anything else in your army). And I think it will be popular.
As well as combining a lot of the Battalions that appear before, all of which have their own nice rules, this one adds the +1 Attacks that the Goreblade Warband from the starter set enjoys when things start dying – except this time it is army-wide. However, it also adds a rule that means every unit in the force can unbind spells (and a couple of models get a +2 bonus to do so). Khorne players now have all the tools they need to seriously shut down the spellcasting of even a Tzeentch or Undead force.
The other Battalions include:
Bloodstorm: 3 units of Wrathmongers who bugger up enemy shooting.
The Gorechosen: All the characters of the Bloodbound in one handy package, with more Attacks and better chances to hit their opponents in the face.
Brass Stampede: A Lord of Khorne on a Juggernaut leading 3 (!) units of Mighty Skullcrushers. Together, these guys charge further and automatically inflict mortal wounds when they go in.
Dark Feast: The little guys have not been forgotten, as this Battalion gives you a Bloodstoker, Slaughterpriest and 3 units of Bloodreavers, who together gain more Attacks and are immune to Battleshock.
Skulltake: A mixture of Bloodstoker, Khorgoraths and Skullreapers, gaining more Attacks and doing more Damage.
Red Headsmen: An Aspiring Deathbringer leading a Skullgrinder and 3 units of Blood Warriors into battle. These guys target specific Heroes and Monsters and gain bonuses for bringing them down.
Bloodbound Warband: A mix of Blood Warriors, Skullreapers, Bloodsecrator and Aspiring Deathbringer who cause blood to rain down from the sky!
Goreblade Warband: As in the starter set and core hardbacks.
Bloodbound Warhorde: Take the Gorechosen, a Bloodbound Warband, and then 3-7 of whatever else you like from the list above, for the benefits already described…
As with the Stormcasts’ Battletome, the four page rules sheets are included right at the back so you can now carry around everything you need for your mortal Khorne force in one handy book.
Overall, I like this book a lot. All the Khornate units are now collated into one place, and the Battalions are nice and meaty – they will certainly get used by Khorne players, and though the mega-Warhorde does require a lot of models, it is flexible enough that most dedicated Khorne players are going to get there quite easily.
The background sections are nicely written and give some depth to characters and units that would otherwise just be bloodthirsty maniacs, and it is good to see what some old faces are getting up to in the Mortal Realms. The Battleplans are nicely evocative, and are certainly going to get some use in our gaming group.
So, overall, if you are a Khorne player, this is a must-buy. If you are not, it does not add a great deal to the ongoing narrative beyond the Realmsgate Wars books, so I would file it under ‘interesting’. If you are the sort of person who collects Codexes for armies that are not your own and actually reads them (as opposed to just memorising the rules just in case you face the army) then, again, it is worth picking up. If not, I might instead recommend the Call of Archaon short story series currently being published by the Black Library, which gives some behind-the-scenes looks at a variety of Chaos forces.