So, a little while ago the new Battletome for Age of Sigmar, covering the Seraphon (Lizardmen), plopped onto my desk and I have been studying it carefully. We must ask ourselves the eternal question: Is it any good?
As a fan of Age of Sigmar, I had a little trepidation when approaching this book. With the other forces released thus far (Stormcast and Bloodbound, with a healthy dollop of Sylvaneth and Pestilens), I pretty much knew what I was getting. The Stormcasts had lots of questions attached to them, but the answers are slowly coming, and Khorne will always be Khorne. However, I never really got into the Lizardman in Fantasy Battle and they were always kinda just ‘Aztec lizards whose floating mages might just be able to nobble my High Elf wizards on a good day’. Not much to build upon.
In Age of Sigmar, there is a whole new take on them but are they going to feel like celestial avengers or will they still seem like Aztec lizards? Bear in mind that a change in viewpoint is not going to be helped by the lack of new models in this wave of releases. Will round bases and a change of paint schemes be enough?
As we have come to expect, you absolutely cannot hammer GW for the artwork in the Age of Sigmar books, and Seraphon is no exception – in fact, it may well be the prettiest Age of Sigmar book released thus far. Speaking as a publisher myself, the amount of resources that have been ploughed into this game on just the art and design side is nothing short of titanic. Frankly, I am in awe.
The above picture is a depiction of when the Stormcast first encountered the Seraphon. The result did not go well for the Bloodbound who were close by…
The first section of the book, as with the other Battletomes, covers the background behind the Seraphon, who they are, what they are, how they function. This bit is going to be important for the Seraphon…
GW clearly want to retain a sense of mystery around the Seraphon (devotees of the 40k background will be well familiar with this tactic), so they reveal things without really saying anything – there is a lot you have to read into and, to an extent, they leave you to make your own mind up. There are a lot of passages that say things like ‘some scholars believe X, while others say Y is more likely’. Which one is correct? Or are they both wrong? Up to you!
This is a good move for two reasons. While some readers may be frustrated (‘why don’t they just tell me what is going on?!?’), it does two things. First, it provides little hooks that GW’s writers can come back to and revisit at a later date. No sense getting annoyed at that, GW have always done it. Second, it gives room for players to breathe in creating their own myths and legends within the game. Two different players can have two different takes on the Seraphon – and they will both be right.
The above, incidentally, I am pretty sure is a Slann spaceship, one of the vessels that carried them from the World That Was.
So, what are they up to now?
Well, reading through the background chapter, it looks like the Lizardmen are all dead – it has been a long, long time since the World That Was, and Lizardmen are no more. However, the Slann are still about and they are hard. There is no mortal match for their magic, they can travel effortlessly between the Realms without needing gateways, and they summon armies by remembering the old Lizardmen.
However, it is not all faceless, in the way that (say) daemons or undead are. A Slann does not look on the battlefield and think ‘those Bloodreavers are getting a bit close, I could use some Skinks led by an Oldblood’. No, instead he might think ‘Oldblood Bob always knew how to deal with Khorne’s lackeys, and I know those Skink rascals Sydney, Jeff and Torsten are always up for a scrap’.
Well, maybe not quite like that, but you get the idea…
The Slann are the only living remnants of the Seraphon, and the rest are conjured memories – but they are memories of ‘real’ Seraphon and, while made manifest, really are the old lizards.
But not physically. There is a great little sidebar that depicts a vampire going up against the Seraphon. Feeling a bit peckish, she bites into a Saurus, then realises she is not drinking blood but pure celestial energy (not great for a vampire). Then the Saurus turns round and bites her head off…
The next part of this chapter looks at the various units that make up the Seraphon and how they are arranged (if you have read White Dwarf you will know all about the constellations and how the Slann arrange their forces, so I won’t go into that here). Here again, we get a lot of the Scholarspeak.
For example, you have the Oldblood, who acts as the general of the Saurus Warriors, nice and simple. Opposite him is the Sunblood, and it is suggested that, being really rather powerful, he is either one of the first Seraphon that was remembered back, or possibly represents a new evolution of the Seraphon as the race transforms into something completely new (which will kinda raise some questions in itself – evolving memories?).
Next up is the colour scheme pages, and there are a lot here – far more variations and ideas than in the Stormcast and Bloodbound books combined. Bascially, you are going to find an idea here you like, but here is also my first real criticism. While there are plenty of colour schemes to choose from, nowhere is there any guide on how to actually paint them, as there have been in past books. Just a hint at what colours were used would have been good, because…
The next chapter is the colourful ‘loadsa minis’ pages, showing you the units of the Serpaphin. It was here that something ‘clicked’ for me.
You see, I don’t think the old ‘natural’ colours of Lizardmen really work for the Seraphon, but I think the bright ‘heavenly’ colours do – they nicely set the Seraphon apart as celestial beings of memory, and I made the decision to make my Seraphon (certainly the bigger creatures) purple. Barney jokes aside, you can see in the photos that purple just works.
It would have been nice to know which base colours, washes and layers they used to get that rich colour. Now I am going to have to do some digging and experiment…
There are three Battleplans in this book (as with the other Battletomes) and, as before, they are used to not just put in some cool battles but to expand and enhance areas of the background – though they do not link into a campaign like the big hardbacks, which is a shame. Some of the battles in other Battletomes did link into those campaigns, and it was appreciated. Maybe these will become ‘relevant’ with the release of the next big hardback…
Anyway, of particular interest is the first, which depicts a Slaaneshi force getting it in the neck from the Seraphon. A Slaaneshi Herald is looking for her lost god, and arrives at a temple expecting answers. Instead, she gets a lizard to the face.
Incidentally, these Battleplans do not explicitly state which Realm they are being fought in, and they are not the first Battleplans to do this. On the one hand, this is good as it means you can approach them however you like, but on the other it means the background is a little bit loose in these areas. I get the sense, though, that this battle is ‘supposed’ to be in the Realm of Death.
Once again, battle maps are provided, and GW has done a great job here.
The next battle is (I think) in the Realm of Life and sees a combined Pestilens and Nurgle daemon force face off against the Seraphon, and the last Battleplan featyures the Stormcasts and Seraphon teaming up against the Bloodbound in what has to be the Realm of Fire.
This picture comes from that battle, and I do quite like it – it has a real ‘I’m going to hit it in the face!’ feel to it…
The last major chapter of the book is full of Warscrolls, and there are a fair few – am whopping 27 of them, and that is before you get to the Battalion Warscrolls. Basically, if it has scales and is in the current range, the Warscroll is here.
There are six Battalion Warscrolls altogether:
Sunclaw Starhost: Sunblood leading 3 units of Saurus Warriors, giving them Rend and more attacks.
Eternal Starhost: 3 units of Saurus Guard led by an Eternity Warden, very defensive but you won’t want to go near them.
Firelance Starhost: Scar-Veteran on Cold One or Carnosaur, leading a charge of Saurus Knights. This one is going to look good on the battlefield, and they are both quick and deadly on the charge.
Shadowstrike Starhost: Skink Priest leading a bunch of Skinks and flyers, the latter of which can drop within 3″ of an enemy from the sky while the rest advance close to the enemy before a battle starts.
Thunderquake Starhost: If you want the heavyweights, this is the one for you – an Engine of the Gods or Troglodon leading a couple of Stegadons or Bastiladons, and attended by Kroxigors or Razordons/Salamanders. And the Battalion allows them to constantly heal themselves!
Finally, there is the Starbeast Constellation, which basically adds all of the above together, adds a couple of Heroes, makes them fearless (no Battleshock tests – ever) and as many Command Abilities as you like.
The book rounds off with, as with all Battletomes, the 4 page rules set.
Well, this book did not answer all my questions about the Seraphon and, with hindsight, I realise it was never going to! It does explain the nature of the Seraphon and how the Slann are working towards their great plan of creating perfect order across all Realms, and there is enough to ‘hang’ your own armies and battles upon. So, in that regard, it works. Perhaps most importantly, it has begun to turn me away from the simple ‘Aztec lizards’ idea of the Seraphon and I am now looking at them as proper celestial warriors of memory led by immortal(-ish) intellects that are second to none.
So, I would have to say this book has succeeded.
Should you buy it?
Well, if you are using Seraphon and are not a dedicated AoS app user, having all the Warscrolls in one place may be worth the price of admission alone.
If you are more interested in following the Age of Sigmar storyline… there may not be much here for you. I am a little hesitant in saying that because while all the other Battletomes did, in at least some sense, extend the storyline of Sigmar’s great invasion, apart from saying the Seraphon have arrived and are helping, this book does not add a great deal. So, no direct extension of the background.
However, reading this book, I do rather get the feeling that it is setting the scene for what is to come. The Seraphon are not going to be going away any time soon, so knowing who and what they are will benefit you. There are also little snippets throughout that may be of interest, such as that Battleplan featuring Slaaneshi forces – as well as the Battleplan itself, that section has five pages dedicated to the background behind it, so it may not be trivial. The same applies to the other Battleplans.
It is also worth pointing out that of you like pretty, characterful books, Battletome: Seraphon is worth picking up. This may be one of GW’s nicest looking books yet.
Overall though, I would rate this book as a worthy addition to the Age of Sigmar line, and I can see some purple lizards in my future…